Bismuth, the shiny element

by maria

The metal with atomic number 83 is called Bismuth. The element was first found on German soil, around 1450, in the mountain range of minerals (“Erz-gebirge”). The name of the element can be derived from the German phrase: “Weisse Masse”, which essentially means: “white mass” and is related to the white color of the element.

The main application of bismuth is for stomach complications. As early as 1780, doctors prescribed a compound, basic bismuth nitrate, for stomach ulcers. In the middle of the 19th century, the recipe was improved with the use of another active substance (bismuth subcarbonate), while today the subcritical bismuth or CBS is widely used. The action of all this was to protect the gastric mucosa from active enzymes such as pepsins, but also (in combination with antibiotics) from Helicobacter pylori, responsible for gastric ulcers.

Other bismuth compounds (bismuth oxide (III) and bismuth subcarbonate (BiO) 2CO3) are used in fireworks to give impact effects. These compounds form them into granules, the rapid combustion of which gives the result of the characteristic sound.

Another compound of the element with atomic number 83, bismuth oxychloride, ie an old cosmetic, from the 19th century, is used in many cosmetics, in order to give special iridescence and shiny appearance.

For science fans: Tassels, clouds made up of ice crystals, although sparse, trap large amounts of heat, intensifying the greenhouse effect. The idea that if we destroy them we can tackle the problem was first proposed in 2009 by David Mitchell of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada. In their model, the researchers “sowed” the troposphere – the layer of the atmosphere where the tassels form – with a bismuth triode. They observed that the ice crystals began to grow around the “seed” of the bismuth triode, causing them to grow and fall down. Without bismuth, the ice crystals remained small, slowly accumulating and forming tufts. With bismuth on a global scale, the reduction of tufts had a spectacular effect, offsetting the 0.8 degree Celsius rise in the Earth’s temperature.


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