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Bismuth oxide is a yellow, monoclinic, crystalline powder. It is insoluble in water but dissolves in acids to form bismuth (III) salts. It is prepared by heating hydroxides, carbonates and nitrates of bismuth or from its metal ores. It is a good flux for low temperature glazes because of its very low melting point. It can also be used as a glass colorant and to give a golden sparkle to glass. Bismuth oxide must be kept in closed clean bottles because it vaporizes very rapidly in air. It is also very corrosive to steel.
Pyrotechnic grade bismuth oxide (Bi2O3) is available online from pyrotechnic supply stores for relatively cheap and is often relative pure. It is used for the “dragon’s eggs” effect in fireworks as a replacement for red lead. It can also be found in a variety of other pyrotechnic products such as firestarters and fuses. It is sometimes incorporated into high quality pyrotechnic glass to improve the strength of the glass.
It is an important ingredient in some pyrotechnic compounds to make them more luminous and easier to ignite, especially if they are made with a mixture of metallics or other non-metallics such as phosphorous. It is also used in a wide variety of industrial applications including disinfectants, magnets, glass, rubber, vulcanization and fireproofing papers and polymers. It is also a useful catalyst for the synthesis of organic compounds and has been identified as a potential anticancer drug.