During the late 20th and early 21st century, China dominated the world in the refining of bismuth. The metal is mined and extracted from the ores of copper and lead.
Bismuth is not a toxic metal. In fact, bismuth is much less toxic than other elements such as mercury. It has low thermal conductivity and a lustrous white colour.
In addition to its aesthetic value, bismuth is used in the manufacture of electronic components, glass, ceramics, and catalysts. For example, bismuth oxide is a major component in the vulcanization process. It is also a major component in the production of plastic and acrylic fibres.
Another common use of bismuth is in fireproofing paper and other materials. It also finds use in magnetic levitation trains. BiFeO3 perovskite nanoparticles are produced from this oxide.
In addition to its uses in electronics, bismuth is also used in medicine. It is a powerful oxidizer and can oxidize manganates.
Bismuth trioxide is a nontoxic alternative to lead oxides. It is also used to produce the “dragon’s egg” effect in fireworks.
In addition to its traditional uses, bismuth oxide has gained attention due to its potential as a high energy gas generator. In these applications, the metal can be formed into pellets, which are molded with different burning parameters. As a result, the amount of gas generated per unit weight is decreased.
Bismuth oxide can be used as a substitute for lead in the manufacture of shotgun bullets. It is also used to replace lead in solder.