The Beryllium Cube

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The beryllium cube is the perfect way to show off an element collection. It’s an exotic and expensive metal, found only in a few places on Earth and produced by mining beryl ore which is melted and turned into a water-soluble beryllium hydroxide (BeOH) with sulphuric acid. The beryllium is then extracted from the BeOH, refined and machined into a variety of shapes and used in various alloys. Pure beryllium is very expensive and hard to find, selling for around 600 to 800 dollars per pound.

Beryllium is mostly used as a low percentage component in hard metal alloys, such as beryllium copper (BeCu) and beryllium nickel silver (BeNiSi). These alloys are often used in high-quality springs, precision measurement equipment, aerospace parts such as adjustable-pitch propeller hub cones and retractable landing gear, non-magnetic fasteners and bearings, non-sparking tools, musical instruments, and bullets. It also has specialized applications in ultra-low temperature cryogenic equipment such as dilution refrigerators. Beryllium is also present in certain percussion instruments due to its resonance and consistent tone and performance.

Stellar abundances of beryllium are valuable for many areas of astrophysics, particularly in studies of the Galactic chemical evolution and in the formation of globular clusters. Determining Be abundances is challenging, however, because Be II resonance lines are strongly affected by atmospheric extinction. The near-UV spectrograph CUBES, which is planned for the VLT, will be more sensitive than UVES in this region and expand the number of stars where Be abundances can be determined.