Beryllium vs. Lithium

What's the Difference?

Beryllium and lithium are both chemical elements found in the periodic table, but they differ in various aspects. Beryllium is a hard, brittle, and steel-gray metal, while lithium is a soft, silvery-white metal. In terms of atomic number, beryllium has an atomic number of 4, making it the fourth element, whereas lithium has an atomic number of 3, making it the third element. Beryllium is significantly denser than lithium, with a density of 1.85 grams per cubic centimeter, compared to lithium's density of 0.53 grams per cubic centimeter. Additionally, beryllium is highly toxic and poses health risks, while lithium is generally considered safe for human use.


Atomic Number43
Atomic Mass9.0121831 u6.94 u
Electron Configuration[He] 2s2[He] 2s1
Atomic Radius112 pm152 pm
Ionization Energy899.5 kJ/mol520.2 kJ/mol

Further Detail


Beryllium and lithium are two elements that belong to the alkali metals group in the periodic table. While they share some similarities, they also have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the various characteristics of beryllium and lithium, including their physical properties, chemical behavior, occurrence in nature, and applications in different industries.

Physical Properties

Beryllium is a lightweight and brittle metal with a silver-gray appearance. It has a high melting point of 1,287°C and a boiling point of 2,471°C. Beryllium is known for its exceptional stiffness and low density, making it one of the lightest structural metals. On the other hand, lithium is an alkali metal that is soft and silvery-white in color. It has a relatively low melting point of 180.5°C and a boiling point of 1,342°C. Lithium is the lightest metal and the least dense solid element, making it highly reactive and easily oxidized.

Chemical Behavior

Beryllium is chemically similar to aluminum, but it exhibits some unique properties. It has a strong affinity for oxygen, forming a thin oxide layer on its surface that protects it from further oxidation. Beryllium is resistant to concentrated nitric acid, but it reacts with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and strong bases. It can also form compounds with other elements, such as beryllium oxide (BeO) and beryllium chloride (BeCl2). On the other hand, lithium is highly reactive and readily forms compounds with various elements. It reacts vigorously with water, releasing hydrogen gas and forming lithium hydroxide. Lithium also reacts with oxygen, nitrogen, and halogens, forming different compounds.

Occurrence in Nature

Beryllium is a relatively rare element in the Earth's crust, with an abundance of only 2-6 parts per million. It is primarily found in the mineral bertrandite and beryl, which is a gemstone. Beryllium is also present in some types of rocks, coal, and oil. On the other hand, lithium is more abundant in nature, although it is still considered a relatively rare element. It is found in various minerals, such as spodumene, petalite, and lepidolite. Lithium can also be extracted from salt flats and brine pools, particularly in countries like Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia.


Beryllium has several unique properties that make it valuable in various industries. Its stiffness, lightness, and excellent thermal conductivity make it ideal for aerospace applications, such as spacecraft components, satellites, and missile systems. Beryllium is also used in nuclear reactors due to its ability to reflect neutrons and its low absorption cross-section. Additionally, beryllium alloys are used in the production of X-ray windows, mirrors, and other optical components. On the other hand, lithium has numerous applications, particularly in batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in portable electronic devices, electric vehicles, and renewable energy storage systems. Lithium is also used in the production of lightweight alloys, ceramics, lubricants, and pharmaceuticals.

Health and Safety Considerations

Beryllium poses health risks due to its toxicity. Inhalation of beryllium dust or fumes can cause a severe lung condition called chronic beryllium disease (CBD). Therefore, strict safety measures are necessary when handling beryllium and its compounds. On the other hand, lithium is generally considered safe for humans when used in appropriate quantities. However, excessive consumption of lithium can lead to lithium toxicity, which may cause symptoms such as tremors, nausea, and confusion. It is important to handle and dispose of lithium batteries properly to prevent environmental contamination.


In conclusion, beryllium and lithium are two distinct elements with unique attributes. Beryllium is a lightweight metal with exceptional stiffness and low density, while lithium is the lightest metal and highly reactive. Beryllium is chemically resistant to some acids but reacts with others, while lithium readily forms compounds with various elements. Beryllium is relatively rare in nature, primarily found in minerals and rocks, while lithium is more abundant and can be extracted from minerals and brine pools. Both elements have important applications in different industries, with beryllium being used in aerospace and nuclear applications, and lithium being widely used in batteries. Safety considerations are crucial when handling beryllium due to its toxicity, while lithium is generally safe when used appropriately. Understanding the attributes of these elements helps us appreciate their significance in various fields and promotes responsible usage.

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