Semimetallic to metallic chemical element, chemical symbol Bi, atomic number 83. Hard, brittle, and lustrous, it has a distinctive gray-white colour with a reddish tinge. It is often found free in nature and also occurs in compounds and in mixed ores. Bismuth alloys are used (because of their low melting points) in making metal castings, special solders, automatic sprinkler heads, fuses, and many fire-detection devices. Bismuth phosphomolybdate is a catalyst in the production of acrylonitrile, an important raw material for fibres and plastics. Salts of bismuth are used in making soothing agents for digestive disorders (especially bismuth subsalicylate), in treating skin infections and injuries, and in lipstick, nail polish, and eye shadow, to which they impart a pearlescent quality.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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