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bismuth oxide chloride (BiOCl) is a lustrous white solid used since antiquity, notably in ancient Egypt. Its layered structure with alternating anions (Cl-) and cations (Bi3+) gives it a pearly iridescent light reflectivity similar to that of nacre. It is used in a wide variety of applications, including paints, stains, and coatings such as those for solid surface countertops. It also is found in cosmetics and as a base for pearlescent finishes that give a shiny metallic appearance to products like pencils and pens.
As trends in cosmetics have moved toward smoothness and brightness, bismuth pigments have benefited from their ability to provide a high level of both. For example, Engelhard Corp’s Mearlite LBU is a pearlescent white pigment with a very low index of refraction. Its rosette-like structure contains many plates, each with different orientations and edges, which scatter light, giving it a brighter appearance than other types of white pigments, such as titanium dioxide coated mica.
The reactivity of bismuth(III) halides has been explored using metal trifiates as catalysts. In the presence of BiCl3 and acetate, aromatic a-bromo ketones and a-iodoketones have been reduced to their corresponding alcohols with good yields. Moreover, the synthesis of acetals has been demonstrated by treatment of aldehydes and acetates with trialkyl orthoformate and the corresponding alcohol in THF.
Other studies have been conducted utilizing a less toxic alternative to nitric acid, such as dilute nitric acid solution of borohydride. The reduction of a-chloro ketones has been achieved with this couple in DMSO, and the cyclization of 3-hydroxycephems has also been successfully catalyzed by BiCl3-NaBH4. The latter reaction, however, does not work well with primary bromides, and these compounds must be converted to their iodo derivatives first.