Bismuth: the essentials

Bismuth is a white, crystalline, brittle metal with a pinkish tinge. Bismuth is the most diamagnetic of all metals, and the thermal conductivity is lower than any metal, except mercury. It has a high electrical resistance, and has the highest Hall effect of any metal (that is, the greatest increase in electrical resistance when placed in a magnetic field).


Science and Ink cartoon for bismuth
Cartoon by Nick D Kim ([Science and Ink], used by permission).

Bismuth: historical information

Bismuth was discovered by known since ancient times in unknown at not known. Origin of name: from the German word "bisemutum".

In early times bismuth was confused with tin and lead. So although bismuth had been discussed many times before, Claude Geoffroy the Younger showed it to be distinct from lead in 1753.

Bismuth around us Read more »

Bismuth has no biological role. However it has been used for some time as a medicine (tripotassium dicitratobismuthate) for treatment of stomach upsets. In combination with antibiotics it is now used for treatment of some stomach ulcers. It is also to be found in haemorrhoid creams such as Anusol cream and Hemocaneas as bismuth oxide and in Anusol ointment as bismuth subgallate.

Elemental bismuth occurs as metallic crystals associated with nickel, cobalt, silver, tin, and uranium sulphide ores. Bismuth is found in the ores bismuthinite (Bi2S3), bismite (α-Bi2O3), and bismutite [(BiO)2CO3] from Peru, Japan, Mexico, Bolivia, England, Norway, Brazil, and Canada. It is more usual to recover it as a by-product from lead and copper smelting plants.

Abundances for cobalt in a number of different environments. More abundance data »
Location ppb by weight ppb by atoms Links
Universe 0.7 0.004 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the universe on a miniature periodic table spark table
Crustal rocks 25 2 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the earth's crust on a miniature periodic table spark table
Human (no data) ppb by weight (no data) atoms relative to C = 1000000 Chemical elements abundance by weight in humans on a miniature periodic table spark table

Physical properties Read more »

Heat properties Read more »

Crystal structure Read more »

The solid state structure of bismuth is: monoclinic.

Bismuth: orbital properties Read more »

Bismuth atoms have 83 electrons and the shell structure is The ground state electronic configuration of neutral Bismuth is [Xe].4f14.5d10.6s2.6p3 and the term symbol of Bismuth is 4S3/2.


Isolation: it is not normally necessary to make bismuth in the laboratory as it is available commercially. Bismuth is found in nature largely as bismite (Bi2O3), bismuthinite (Bi2S3), and bismutite [(BiO)2CO3]. However it is generally made as a byproduct of copper, lead,tin, silver, gold, and zinc plants. The final step involves a reduction of the oxide by charcoal.

Bismuth isotopes Read more »

Table. Stables isotopes of cobalt.
Isotope Mass
(atom %)
spin (I)
moment (μ/μN)
209Bi 208.980374 (5) 100 9/2 4.1106

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