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15th December 2017

Beryllium

Beryllium

What Is Beryllium And Where Do I Use It?

  • Beryllium (Chemical symbol Be – fourth element of the Periodic table) is a naturally occurring critical material which is used in a variety of highly-innovative industry sectors such as the automotive, aerospace, defence, consumer electronics, electrical engineering and medical equipment sectors.
  • Beryllium is very light and rigid with a density thirty percent lower than aluminium and 3 times the stiffness of titanium.
  • The alloy of copper with less than 2% Beryllium is as strong as steel, a very good conductor of electricity and heat, non-magnetic and non-sparking. It resists deformation over time at elevated temperatures and thus is used to make extremely reliable conductive springs, such as connector terminals.  
  • Beryllium metal is highly transparent to X-rays making it essential for X-Ray and CT Scan medical systems.
  • Beryllium is also essential to produce and recycle magnesium and aluminium (Mg & AlMg) alloys.

Where is Beryllium Produced?

  • Most of the processing of beryl and bertrandite is in the US (90%), balance in China.
  • World producers of beryllium metal, beryllium alloys and beryllium oxide are in the USA, Kazakhstan, Japan and China, none in Europe.

How much does it cost?

  • Beryllium annual consumption is expected to grow from about 300 in 2014 to 425 MT/year by 2020 and to >450 MT/year by 2030, driven by such applications as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) fusion energy project located in Cadarache, France that offers the opportunity to provide sustainable energy.
  • The price of beryllium is dependent on the form.
    • As a fully machined aerospace component of pure beryllium: €300 – 1,500/kg
    • As a cast aluminium 39% beryllium alloy aerospace component: €200 – €500/kg
    • As a copper 2% beryllium alloy in bulk and strip form: €20 – 50 /kg
    • As a copper 0.3% beryllium alloy in strip form: €12 – 20 /kg

Specific Issues for Beryllium

  • The first Critical Raw Materials report by the European Commission in 2010 identified Beryllium as a CRM, and this status was renewed in the 2014 revision and in the 2017 revision of the CRM report.
  • The economic importance of Beryllium was established due to its very unique combination of properties that make it non-substitutable in many demanding high-tech applications which would suffer a loss in performance if it were to be substituted.
  • In terms of supply risk, there are no commercially viable sources of Beryllium in the EU. One US mine with over 100+ years of reserves is producing the ore used for over 65% of global demand.
  • Overly restrictive EU regulations, such as Occupational Health and Safety legislation do not always embrace recent scientific data and proven industrial safety practices. This could alter the customer environment for the manufacture of critical components containing beryllium that will create economic disincentives to the ongoing supply of beryllium and its use in the EU.
  • Large increases in the demand of Beryllium are expected in the defence applications and in commercial applications such as X-ray products, semiconductor processing equipment and new types of beryllium alloys as well the usage in AlMg and Mg alloys.

To learn more about beryllium: www.beryllium.euwww.berylliumsafety.eu

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Reviewed by

BeST