IYPT Elements

IYPT 2019 Elements 083: Bismuth: Cosmetics and crackling fireworks

Element 83 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is bismuth. Bismuth’s compounds are used in some cosmetics and are also behind the fizzing, crackling sounds of some fireworks.

Elemental bismuth can be grown into iridescent crystals such as that shown below., Imunarriz, CC-BY-SA licence

A bismuth compound, bismuth oxychloride, is used in some cosmetics to give either a matte or a shiny finish depending on particle size.

Other bismuth compounds, bismuth(III) oxide and bismuth subcarbonate, are used in fireworks to give crackling effects. These compounds are formed into granules, the rapid combustion of which gives the crackling effect.

Bismuth-containing compounds are also found in medicines to treat stomach aches and diarrhoea. The best-known example is Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate), an antacid.

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.