Bismuth – What Should You Know

February 2021

The bismuth is one of the chemical elements that make up the Periodic Table of Elements. Mentioned in this way, we would not be very faithful to a metal that has very surprising and little diffused characteristics. It is part of many metals as a chemical element and was one of the first 10 to be discovered. Because it has been known for several thousand years, it is not possible to attribute its discovery to anyone. However, it could be confused with lead and tin, with which it shares specific characteristics.


  • Bismuth as a Periodic Table member is found in Group 15, Period 6, with an atomic number of 83. It is a noble metal and is located between the metalloids and the semimetals. Like other metals in its group, it is bright red or white, and its natural state is solid.

  • It has a lower density in the solid-state than in its solid-state so that it can float in it. Its melting point, that is, its transition from solid to liquid, is relatively low: at 271 ° C (544.4 K).

  • The compounds that can be formed from this mineral are presented in a trivalent form and sometimes pentavalent or monovalent. The best known are sodium bismuthate and bismuth pentafluoride, which act as oxidizing and fluorinating agents.

  • Together with manganese, it is a poor thermal and electrical conductor. Bismuth cannot be found naturally in any of the known life forms. Chemically, it resembles noble metals as it is difficult to oxidize. Despite being considered a heavy metal, it is not aggressive to health, and its toxicity is extremely low.

  • The scarcity of bismuth in nature is similar to that of gold, but due to the little industrial use it can be applied, it is a cheap metal.


Its primary use is in the pharmaceutical industry, from which compounds used for the manufacture of antidiarrheal drugs are obtained. The compound for this type of treatment is bismuth subsalicylate.

The use of bismuth compounds is common in treating diarrhea, stomach ailments - heartburn, nausea, or indigestion -; it is not convenient to prescribe it to children under 12 years of age. It is also used to combat bacterial conditions such as Helicobacter pylori, which causes the so-called "traveler's diarrhea."

Bismuth crystals can be worked, and beautiful ornaments are obtained from them. In ancient times, the Incas used it together with other metals to make masks and ornaments for their rituals.

The bismuth oxychloride is used in the cosmetology industry to manufacture pigments for eye shadow and nail polish, as it provides a hue and pearly finish.

Its significant atomic mass could fulfill the same functions as lead, as an anti-radioactive shield, but its scarcity makes this unfeasible.


One of the most curious characteristics of bismuth is that it has a half-life of 20 trillion years. In other words, an atom of this metal can live three times the age of the universe. That is why it is considered the last element to go extinct, transforming them from an uninteresting element to an extraordinary one.

It has other singularities such as, for example, a metal that is solid-state presents white, pink or reddish chlorine, but if we burn it, we obtain a blue flame and yellow smoke.

Final Words

We can say that bismuth appears to us at first glance as an ordinary element but that, without a doubt, it has properties that differentiate it from the rest of the metals in its group and that are the object of studies by science.

Leave Comment