Extracting Bismuth From Pepto Bismol
Bismuth is a very odd metal that you see in cosmetic pigments and as a replacement for lead, since it is less toxic. You will also see it — or an alloy — in fire sprinklers since it melts readily. However, the most common place you might encounter bismuth is Pepto Bismol — the ubiquitous pink liquid you use when your stomach is upset. [NileRed] tried extracting the bismuth from Pepto Bismol some time ago, but didn’t get good results. He decided that even though the process would not be cost-effective he wanted to try again, and you can see the crystals produced in the video below.
It turns out that you don’t need the pink liquid brand name. [Red Nile] started with ten boxes of generic chewable tablets — that’s 480 pills. A little bit of dilute hydrochloric acid eats the pills apart and generates a few reactions that he explains in the video.
There was a little difficulty because the pills contained starch and this required some additional work to filter out. There were a lot of different steps and you can follow along in the video.
In theory, the pills could produce up to 72.6 grams of bismuth. He wound up with about 43 grams or about 60%. This was better than the 22% he achieved last time.
Once he had the metal, he wanted to make crystals. Bismuth crystals are very colorful and something you rarely see in nature. The crystals were not particularly large and took $120 worth of pills along with a few days of effort. So he’d have been better served by just buying bismuth.