Periodic Table -> Gallium


Gallium Details

Gallium Symbol: Ga

Gallium Atomic Number: 31

Gallium Atomic Weight: 69.72

What is Gallium?

Gallium is a metal with the symbol Ga, listed under number 31 in the periodic table. It does not occur naturally on its own, but can be found as a salt in zinc and bauxite ores. It is a poor metal, meaning that its melting and boiling points are relatively low, its electro-negativity is relatively high, and it is softer. It differs from metalloids in this regard.

Brittle at low temperatures, gallium becomes a liquid when the temperature rises to around 25 degrees Celsius. It can melt in your hand at room temperature. A compound of Ga, gallium arsenide, is used in semiconductors. Other two compounds of this element, gallium nitride and indium gallium nitride, are used to produce diode lasers. Almost all of the gallium in the world is used in semiconductors at the present time, but new uses are constantly being found. One emerging use is in medicine as a way to treat inflammation. The use of certain gallium salts is believed to be important for treatment.

Production and use of the metal in semiconductors are relatively cheap. Some compounds of the element are used in electronic components, optoelectronics, and infrared applications. Other compounds of gallium are used in light-emitting diodes, multi-junction photo-voltaic cells, satellites, solar panels, and more.

The compounds of gallium also have medical uses. For example, Gallium nitrate (better known as Ganite) has been known to treat hypercalcemia in the wake of tumor metastasis. Forms of gallium ions are used to treat certain types of cancer, inflammation and infections. It may potentially help treat cystic fibrosis and malaria.

Liquid gallium is used to wet glass and porcelain surfaces, forming a reflective, and bright surface when it is coated on glass. Brilliant mirrors can be created using it. Low-melting alloys are formed by using gallium because it alloys with most metals. An alloy of gallium is used in nuclear weapons’ plutonium pits as to stabilize the allotropes of plutonium. The production of high temperature thermometers and analog integrated circuits also involves the use of gallium.

The element does not occur naturally, but can easily be derived by smelting. In completely pure form, it can break like glass. When it becomes solid, it expands by 3.1 percent. This is why, it should not be kept in metal or glass containers. Its density is very high in liquid form, comparable only to the density of germanium, antimony, silicon, water, and bismuth. The ultra pure form of gallium is silvery in color and has a beautiful appearance. The conchoidal fracture characteristic of the solid metal is similar to glass.

Gallium was discovered by use of a spectroscope in 1875. That same year it was derived as a free metal by means of electrolysis. Today, the element is frequently obtained as a by-product of zinc and aluminum. The amount of 184 tons of gallium was produced in 2007, mostly from mining. A number of processes are required for the production of pure gallium, which end with zone refining. It is used to produce pure gallium metal.

Gallium is not considered toxic, but this does not mean you shouldn’t be careful. When divided, gallium loses its shimmer and appears gray in color. As a result, when it is handled with bare hands, you may get gray skin stains.

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