From the Greek word beryllos, beryl; also called glucinium or glucinum, Greek glykys, sweet. Discovered in the oxide form by Vauquelin in both beryl and emeralds in 1798. The metal was isolated in 1828 by Wohler and by Bussy independently by the action of potassium on beryllium chloride.
Beryllium is found in some 30 mineral species, the most important of which are bertrandite, beryl, chrysoberyl, and phenacite. Aquamarine and emerald are precious forms of beryl. Beryl and bertrandite are the most important commercial sources of the element and its compounds. Most of the metal is now prepared by reducing beryllium fluoride with magnesium metal. Beryllium metal did not become readily available to industry until 1957.
Beryllium is used as an alloying agent in producing beryllium copper, which is extensively used for springs, electrical contacts, spot-welding electrodes, and non-sparking tools. It is applied as a structural material for high-speed aircraft, missiles, spacecraft, and communication satellites. Other uses include windshield frame, brake discs, support beams, and other structural components of the space shuttle.
Because beryllium is relatively transparent to X-rays, ultra-thin Be-foil is finding use in X-ray lithography for reproduction of micro-miniature integrated circuits.
Beryllium is used in nuclear reactors as a reflector or moderator for it has a low thermal neutron absorption cross section.
It is used in gyroscopes, computer parts, and instruments where lightness, stiffness, and dimensional stability are required. The oxide has a very high melting point and is also used in nuclear work and ceramic applications.