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Bismuth is a brittle, hard metallic element, silvery white in pure form with a pinkish tinge. It is a pentavalent post-transition metal and one of the pnictogens, with chemical properties resembling those of its lighter homologs arsenic and antimony. Like the pnictogens, bismuth has the lowest value of thermal conductivity among metals and is naturally diamagnetic.
The element can be found in nature in the minerals bismuthinite and bismite, and is produced as a byproduct of lead, zinc, tin, molybdenum, and tungsten extraction. It is mined principally from tungsten, lead, and copper ores in South Korea, Mexico, Bolivia, and China; it is also extracted from bismuth sulfide by roasting in the presence of charcoal to remove sulfur. The element forms only one stable isotope, which has a mass of 209. Bismuth metal and its compounds are used in low melting solders and fusible alloys as well as low toxicity bird shot and fishing sinkers.
Oxidation of bismuth at high temperatures generates a variety of carbides, including iron bismuth carbide, BiC. In this study, we show that FeBiC can be re-oxidized in CO at ambient temperature, similar to other carbides such as those of lithium, Li2C3, calcium, CaC2, strontium, SrC2, and barium, BaC2, which furnish pure acetylene; aluminium, Al4C3, beryllium, Be2C4, thorium, ThC2, and uranium, U2C2, which yield a mixture of hydrogen, ethylene, and methane. The formation of these carbides is a result of oxygen scavenging by the atomically close FeBi species in the complex catalyst structure prepared by mechanical mixing and activation for short times in CO.