Beryllium vs. Magnesium

What's the Difference?

Beryllium and magnesium are both alkaline earth metals that share some similarities but also have distinct differences. Both elements have similar atomic structures, with two valence electrons in their outermost energy level. This similarity allows them to exhibit similar chemical properties, such as forming ionic compounds with a +2 oxidation state. However, there are notable differences between the two. Beryllium is a relatively rare and lightweight metal, while magnesium is more abundant and has a higher density. Additionally, beryllium is known for its exceptional strength and rigidity, making it useful in aerospace and defense industries, whereas magnesium is valued for its lightness and ability to ignite easily, making it suitable for applications in pyrotechnics and flares.


Atomic Number412
Atomic Mass9.0121831 u24.305 u
Electron Configuration[He] 2s2[Ne] 3s2
Density1.85 g/cm³1.738 g/cm³
Melting Point1287 °C650 °C
Boiling Point2469 °C1090 °C
Common UsesX-ray windows, nuclear reactors, aerospace industryAlloys, pyrotechnics, construction materials

Further Detail


Beryllium and magnesium are two chemical elements that belong to the alkaline earth metals group in the periodic table. While they share some similarities due to their placement in the same group, they also possess distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore and compare the various characteristics of beryllium and magnesium, including their physical properties, chemical reactivity, occurrence in nature, and applications in various 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, magnesium is also a lightweight metal with a silvery-white color. It has a lower melting point of 650°C and a boiling point of 1,090°C. Magnesium is significantly less dense than beryllium, making it even lighter and more malleable.

Chemical Reactivity

When it comes to chemical reactivity, beryllium is less reactive compared to magnesium. Beryllium has a strong affinity for oxygen, forming a thin oxide layer on its surface when exposed to air. This oxide layer acts as a protective barrier, preventing further reaction with oxygen. Beryllium also exhibits excellent resistance to corrosion, making it highly suitable for applications in harsh environments. On the other hand, magnesium is more reactive and readily reacts with oxygen to form a protective oxide layer as well. However, this oxide layer is not as stable as beryllium's, and magnesium can corrode more easily in certain conditions.

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 ores are mainly concentrated in the United States, China, and Kazakhstan. Magnesium, on the other hand, is the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, with an abundance of approximately 2.3%. It is commonly found in minerals such as magnesite and dolomite. Magnesium reserves are distributed worldwide, with major deposits in China, Russia, and Brazil.


Beryllium possesses unique properties that make it highly valuable in various industries. Its exceptional stiffness, lightness, and resistance to heat and corrosion make it ideal for aerospace applications, such as in the construction of aircraft components, satellites, and missiles. Beryllium is also used in nuclear reactors due to its ability to reflect neutrons and its excellent thermal conductivity. However, beryllium is toxic and poses health risks, so its use is strictly regulated.

Magnesium, on the other hand, has a wide range of applications due to its abundance and favorable properties. It is commonly used in the automotive industry to reduce the weight of vehicles, improve fuel efficiency, and enhance structural integrity. Magnesium alloys are also utilized in the production of electronic devices, such as laptops and smartphones, as they provide excellent electromagnetic shielding. Additionally, magnesium compounds are used in various pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, and as a component in fireworks due to their unique properties.


In conclusion, beryllium and magnesium, despite belonging to the same group in the periodic table, exhibit distinct attributes that make them suitable for different applications. Beryllium's exceptional stiffness, lightness, and resistance to heat and corrosion make it valuable in aerospace and nuclear industries. However, its toxicity requires careful handling. On the other hand, magnesium's abundance, lightweight, and favorable properties make it widely used in the automotive, electronics, and pharmaceutical industries. Understanding the unique characteristics of these elements allows us to appreciate their diverse applications and contributions to various fields.

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