Beryllium Copper Alloys by IBC Advanced Alloys

 

About Beryllium

Beryllium

Beryllium is a rare metal possessing a combination of physical and mechanical characteristics specifically suited to a wide range of demanding applications. Beryllium metal is extremely stiff and lightweight with a modulus of elasticity almost 50 percent greater than that of steel with only one-fourth the weight. Stiffness and lightweight enable accurate positioning of high-end instruments and optical equipment providing the ability to withstand extreme stress such as those encountered during spacecraft liftoff and various military applications.

Beryllium has excellent thermal characteristics, is nonmagnetic and is transparent to X-rays. As a result of its transparency beryllium is used widely in X-ray lithography for reproduction of micro-miniature integrated circuits and is used almost exclusively in all X-ray generators. Beryllium is also widely used in reactors, and other nuclear applications, as a reflector or moderator because it has a low thermal neutron absorption cross section.

Rare earth elements and rare metals, including beryllium and beryllium alloys, are facing increasing demand pressures driven primarily by global industrial growth as well as emerging new opportunities for beryllium use. The price of pure beryllium is generally in the range of $500 per kg with world beryllium consumption forecast to grow by approximately 90% by 2010 from its 2005 levels.

Beryllium Reserves

Beryllium reserves are located around the world with the exception of the Middle East. The USA is currently the largest producer of beryllium products and while it does have large known reserves, particularly in Utah, there are several other important known global deposits of beryllium. There are large concentrations of beryllium reserves located in Brazil in addition to substantial known deposits in Central Africa and Russia with a reported 27 beryllium deposits. A 2001 Roskill Information report estimated that more than 50% of the planet's beryllium deposits are located in Brazil, Uganda and Russia.

A new emerging supplier of beryllium is Kasakhstan which recently announced several large deposits as a result of work done by the national nuclear company, Kazatomprom, developing tantalum, uranium and beryllium production. Historical beryllium reserve estimates for Russia and the former Soviet Union however should be viewed with some suspicion as beryllium was in the past an integral component of their nuclear program and therefore a strategic resource with reserve amounts kept a closely guarded secret.

Overall global beryllium resource estimates are thought to be approximately 80,000 tons with the Americas, Central Africa and Eastern Europe having the most concentrated and economically viable deposits.

Global Beryllium Market

The industrialized economies of North America, Europe and increasingly India and China are the primary markets for beryllium based and beryllium alloy metals. Establishing a total global revenue amount for beryllium is difficult due to reporting differences and the fact that beryllium is sold as a pure metal, but also as beryllium copper alloy, beryllium aluminum alloy to name a few.

A valuable metric, other than revenues, is the global consumption of beryllium and the projected consumption figures for 2010 which are shown below from a 2006 Global Strategic Business Report. These figures clearly show a growth market with significant opportunity.

 

Market

Consumption by Metric Tons

2005

2010 (est.)

North America 86 334
Europe 110 145
Asia Pacific 100 130
Other 22 11
Total 318 620

Beryllium Applications

Beryllium has a wide range of applications across a host of important industries that make it a highly valuable resource. It, or one it's many alloys, is an integral metal component of many things we take for granted in our daily lives. Without beryllium, and other rare earth metals, we would have a world without cell phones, iPods, digital and analog modems, broadband cable tools, nuclear reactors, anti-lock brakes, electric windows or door locks for example.

A 2006 Industrial Beryllium Report breaks down beryllium use into 5 important growth markets in North America and globally. The projected consumption figures for beryllium above indicate the anticipated growth in these markets and the need for increased beryllium production.

According to the 2006 Report the top 5 markets, with their associated needs for beryllium, are:

1.    Telecom Equipment and Computing:
  • Wireless, fixed and optical transmission tools including broadband cable hubs;
  • Cell phones, pagers, wireless PDAs, notebooks and sub-notebooks;
  • Wireless base receiver stations and wireless network gateway equipment.
2.    Automotive Electronics:
  • Modules for engine control computers;
  • Power train controls and actuators for fan/blower motors;
  • Wireless base receiver stations and wireless network gateway equipment.
3.    Aerospace and Defense:
  • Aircraft and space shuttle brakes;
  • Inertial guidance systems and gyroscopes;
  • Nuclear weapons components and other ordinance requirements.
4.    Industrial Components:
  • Directional drilling tools and high stress/heat cutting or abrasive tools;
  • High impact or stress bushings and bearings;
  • Corrosion resistant valves, actuators and welding components.
5.    Alternative and Clean Energy:
  • Neutron moderator and reflector in power generating nuclear reactors;
  • Heat and blast shields in reactors;
  • Solar energy focusing assembly and storage units.