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What is Gallium? Properties and Uses of Gallium

Updated on June 21, 2016
Pure Form of Gallium
Pure Form of Gallium | Source

Gallium is a metal that easily melts within a few seconds of holding it in your hands. It was discovered by the French Chemist Paul-Emile Licoq de Boisbaudrin in 1875.

Before the discovery of Gallium by Paul-Emile Licoq de Boisbaudrin, a Chemist by the name Mendeleev predicted the existence of Gallium in the year 1871 and also stated that the physical properties would be similar to that of aluminium. The word Gallium originates from the Latin word "Gallia" for France.

Gallium is represented by the symbol "Ga". It does not exist as a free form in nature. Gallium is obtained as a by-product in the process of mining or while refining metals like aluminium, zinc and copper. It is also found as trace elements in minerals like sphalerite, germanite, bauxite and coal.

France leads as a major refiner of Gallium metal followed by Russia, Canada, and Kazakhstan.

Properties of Gallium

Gallium is the 31st element on the periodic table with an atomic number 31. The pure form of Gallium is silvery white in color whereas solid Gallium is blue-gray in color. Solid Gallium is soft and can easily be cut with a knife. It expands on cooling and, therefore, should not be stored in glass or metal containers.

Gallium has a very low melting point. It melts just above the room temperature. Gallium easily mixes with metals to form alloys, and it is used to create alloys with a low melting point.

When Gallium comes in contact with another metal, it diffuses into the other metal’s crystalline structure making the metal very brittle. For example, when Gallium comes in contact with steel it diffuses into the core structure of steel and makes it weak and brittle. An aluminium coke can crumbles when it comes in contact with Gallium.

Gallium and compounds of Gallium are hazardous to the health of humans and animals. They leave a metallic taste in the mouth; cause skin rashes and in extreme cases it can decrease the production of red blood cells. Gallium and compounds of Gallium should be handled with caution. Gallium is less toxic when compared to the toxicity level of mercury.

High Efficiency Gallium Arsenide Solar Cells (they cover the sides of US Naval Academy satellite MIDSTAR-1)
High Efficiency Gallium Arsenide Solar Cells (they cover the sides of US Naval Academy satellite MIDSTAR-1) | Source

Uses of Gallium

Gallium is used in thermometers that research scientists use to measure environments with very high temperatures.

Mirrors are painted with gallium to make a highly polished reflective surface. Gallium is used to wet porcelain surfaces to give extra shine.

Gallium easily combines with other metals to form alloys. Alloys like Gallium nitride and Gallium arsenide are used to make semiconductors and light emitting diodes.

Gallium is used in the manufacture of integrated circuits. Integrated circuits are also referred to as microchips. Microchips are used in defense applications, computers, and telecommunications.

Gallium-67 salts such as gallium citrate and gallium nitrate are used in nuclear medicine for imaging purposes to detect cancerous cells. The Gallium scan involves a medical test that uses the radioactive form of the Gallium isotope to detect cancerous cells.

Gallium-based solar panels provide power for space applications like satellites and space missions.

Gallium arsenide (GaAs) changes electricity directly into laser light. It is used in the manufacture of lasers, photodetectors, light-emitting diodes (LED), solar cells and highly sophisticated circuits, semiconductors and transistors

Gallium arsenide is used to make transistors. A transistor is a device used to control the flow of electricity in a circuit.

The Neutrino Observatory in Italy uses a large amount of Gallium to study solar neutrinos produced by the sun (neutrinos are subatomic particles that can pass through ordinary matter).

A form of Gallium called Gallium (III) salt is used to treat hypercalcemia that can cause tumor in the bones.

Watch as the spoon made out of Gallium disappears

References

http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele031.html

http://www.webelements.com/gallium/

http://www.livescience.com/29476-gallium.html

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    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Blackspaniel1 thank you.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 3 years ago

      Interesting article. The microchip is perhaps the most significant of all the uses you states.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      RTalloni thank you and am glad this hub will be of use to you.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Interesting to learn about this metal. It's the kind of information I like to have in my back pocket to use in conversations and object lessons. :)

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Lady_E am glad you came to know about Gallium, thank you for your visit.

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 4 years ago from London, UK

      It's the first time I have read about it. Thanks.... I am more the wiser. :-)

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      teaches12345 thank you for your visit, glad you enjoyed the lesson!!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I probably had an introduction to this in my high school chemistry class but it was most likely pale compared to your interesting lesson.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      DDE thank you for your visit and vote up.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Informative and so helpful. Gallium is new to me and I learned all about it here. An interesting and well explained hub. Voted up.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      midget38 thank you for your visit, much appreciated.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for introducing us to some little known facts, Nithya. Sharing this.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      tramvaj thank you and yes it is fascinating. Thank you for your visit.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Have to say I agree with all the comments, Gallium is something I had never thought about and now you bring it to our attention. Quite fascinating, thank you for such an interesting hub.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Nell Rose, thank you. The periodic table does confuse indeed, much appreciated.

      always exploring thank you.

      Jodah thank you for reading and the vote up.

      AliciaC thank you for your visit.

      Faith Reaper thank you, Gallium is fascinating. Thank you for the vote up and blessings!! Much appreciated.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      I have never heard of Gallium before. Fascinating hub and the videos were amazing!

      Voted up and more and away

      Blessings

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for sharing the useful information about a very interesting element, Vellur.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting hub Vellur. I didn't know anything about gallium before especially that it can integrate itself into other metals and weaken their structure. Voted up.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Very interesting. I knew nothing about gallium. The videos were interesting as well. Thank's for sharing...

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Now this is fascinating vellur, I love science and the periodic table always confuses me because I get the initials muddled up! lol! but this is a new one for me, so fascinating reading! nell

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      billybuc thank you for stopping by and reading about the amazing Gallium.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for the science lesson. Very interesting information.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Jackie Lynnley thank you, you made my day!!

      RachelOhalloran thank you for reading and am glad my hub was informative.

    • RachaelOhalloran profile image

      Rachael O'Halloran 4 years ago from United States

      Wow, that's some serious stuff! I had heard the word Gallium before, but never knew its origin or other uses. Thanks for providing so much info about it.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Very interesting metal! Not something that would come to our attention without good writers like you! Thanks so much for sharing. ^+

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