How To: There's Metal Hiding in Your Pepto-Bismol and Here's How You Extract It

There's Metal Hiding in Your Pepto-Bismol and Here's How You Extract It

Got an upset stomach or a little heartburn? America's favorite pink pill will cure it right up. But did you know that there's actually metal hiding in those chewable Pepto-Bismol tablets? Yes, metal.

Technically, it's a poor metal, but metal's metal, right? Well, we do tend to eat a lot of iron in our diets, because it carries oxygen throughout our bodies, so consuming metallic minerals isn't anything abnormal. But you'd never think that Pepto-Bismol is actually made up of metal.

Pepto-Bismol's active ingredient is bismuth subsalicylate, of which an eighth of it is actually bismuth metal, though it's not tiny ground-up bits of bismuth. It's combined chemically with salicylate, but to get actual bismuth metal, you can reverse engineer it by reducing it chemically, and that's exactly what Theodore Gray of Popular Science will show you how to do!

Gray grinded up 180 pills, dissolved them in water and concentrated muriatic acid, filtered it into a clear pink solution of bismuth ions, and then dipped aluminum foil in to produce bismuth metal particles.

He then filtered with a pillowcase to catch the metal powder, and heated the powder until it melted into a nice solid rock of bismuth metal.

Simple enough, right? To get the full scoop on how this works, visit Gray's article on PopSci, or just skip right to his step-by-step image gallery.

Want to extract metal from other edible products? You can extract a ton of iron from your everyday breakfast cereal.

All photos from PopSci by Mike Walker

5 Comments

So what exactly would one do with a nice solid rock of bismuth metal?

Solder maybe? Or bullets? Seems bismuth is comparable to lead in density, so it can be used as a lead replacement in some applications.

I turned a small piece into jewelry, the formation of Hall's crystals was lovely.

Is bismuth poisonous?

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