The chemical formula for beryllium nitride is Be3N2. This compound of beryllium and nitrogen is made by heating beryllium metal powder with dry nitrogen at high temperatures (1100-1500 deg C). Beryllium nitride is relatively reactive, oxidizing quickly in air at 600 deg C and being decomposed by water. It is a member of the family of nitrides, which are compounds of elements that combine with nitrogen and have a formal oxidation state of three.
It is a gray, solid, brittle metal with a low density and good thermal conductivity. It is used in X-ray equipment and particle physics. It has a high melting point and can be fused with magnesium to form magnesium nitride. It is also combined with silicon to produce a ceramic known as beryllium silicate.
Beryllium has a very small atomic radius and is easily soluble in nitric acid. It is also a weak electrolyte and forms complexes with alkali metals like lithium. It is toxic at high concentrations and has been linked to beryllium disease, a granulomatous lung condition characterized by dyspnea, coughing, reduced pulmonary function and weight loss.
Most metal nitrides are unstable and react with water to produce the oxide or hydroxide of the element, but some nitrides, such as those of vanadium, boron, silicon, tantalum, titanium and more are refractory and resistant to earth chemical interactions. They are also very hard and are often used in crucibles and as abrasives due to their hardness.