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What is Gallium? Properties and Uses of Gallium

Fascinated with metals Nithya Venkat enjoys reading and writing about metals present on Earth.

Pure Form of Gallium

Pure Form of Gallium

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)

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.

References

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

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

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

© 2014 Nithya Venkat

Comments

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 13, 2015:

Blackspaniel1 thank you.

Blackspaniel1 on February 10, 2015:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 26, 2014:

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

RTalloni on May 26, 2014:

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. :)

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 26, 2014:

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

Elena from London, UK on May 26, 2014:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 17, 2014:

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

Dianna Mendez on May 17, 2014:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 12, 2014:

DDE thank you for your visit and vote up.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 12, 2014:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 08, 2014:

midget38 thank you for your visit, much appreciated.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on May 08, 2014:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 07, 2014:

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

travmaj from australia on May 06, 2014:

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.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 06, 2014:

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 from southern USA on May 06, 2014:

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

Voted up and more and away

Blessings

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 06, 2014:

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

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on May 06, 2014:

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.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on May 06, 2014:

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

Nell Rose from England on May 06, 2014:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 06, 2014:

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

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 06, 2014:

Thank you for the science lesson. Very interesting information.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 06, 2014:

Jackie Lynnley thank you, you made my day!!

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

Rachael O'Halloran from United States on May 05, 2014:

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 from the beautiful south on May 05, 2014:

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