Infobox gallium

Gallium (pronEng|ˈgæliəm) is a chemical element that has the symbol Ga and atomic number 31. A soft silvery metallic poor metal, gallium is a brittle solid at low temperatures but liquefies slightly above room temperature and will melt in the hand. It occurs in trace amounts in bauxite and zinc ores. An important application is in the compounds gallium nitride and gallium arsenide, used as a semiconductor, most notably in light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Notable characteristics

Elemental gallium is not found in nature, but it is easily obtained by smelting.Very pure gallium metal has a brilliant silvery color and its solid metal fractures conchoidally like glass. Gallium metal expands by 3.1 percent when it solidifies, and therefore storage in either glass or metal containers is avoided, due to the possibility of container rupture with freezing. Gallium shares the higher-density liquid state with only a few materials like germanium, bismuth, antimony and water.

Gallium also attacks most other metals by diffusing into their metal lattice. Gallium for example diffuses into the grain boundaries of Al/Zn alloys [cite journal
title = Grain boundary imaging, gallium diffusion and the fracture behavior of Al–Zn Alloy – An in situ study
author = W. L. Tsai, Y. Hwu, C. H. Chen, L. W. Chang, J. H. Je, H. M. Lin, G. Margaritondo
journal = Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms
year = 2003
volume = 199
issue =
pages = 457–463
doi = 10.1016/S0168-583X(02)01533-1
] or steel. [cite web | url = | title = Liquid Metal Embrittlement of ASTM A723 Gun Steel by Indium and Gallium | author = Vigilante, G. N., Trolano, E., Mossey, C. | publisher = Defense Technical Information Center |date=Jun 1999] , making them very brittle. Also, gallium metal easily alloys with many metals, and was used in small quantities in the core of the first atomic bomb to help stabilize the plutonium crystal structure. [cite web |author=Sublette,Cary |title=Section |date=2001-09-09 |work=Nuclear Weapons FAQ |url= |accessdate=2008-01-24 ]

The melting point temperature of 29.76 °C allows the metal to be melted in one's hand. This metal has a strong tendency to supercool below its melting point/freezing point, thus necessitating seeding in order to solidify. Gallium is one of the metals (with caesium, rubidium, francium and mercury) which are liquid at or near normal room temperature, and can therefore be used in metal-in-glass high-temperature thermometers. It is also notable for having one of the largest liquid ranges for a metal, and (unlike mercury) for having a low vapor pressure at high temperatures. Unlike mercury, liquid gallium metal wets glass and skin, making it mechanically more difficult to handle (even though it is substantially less toxic and requires far fewer precautions). For this reason as well as the metal contamination problem and freezing-expansion problems noted above, samples of gallium metal are usually supplied in polyethylene packets within other containers.

Gallium does not crystallize in any of the simple crystal structures. The stable phase under normal conditions is orthorhombic with 8 atoms in the conventional unit cell. Each atom has only one nearest neighbor (at a distance of 244 pm) and six other neighbors within additional 39 pm. Many stable and metastable phases are found as function of temperature and pressure.

The bonding between the nearest neighbors is found to be of covalent character, hence Ga2 dimers are seen as the fundamental building blocks of the crystal. The compound with arsenic, gallium arsenide is a semiconductor commonly used in light-emitting diodes.

High-purity gallium is dissolved slowly by mineral acids.

Gallium has no known biological role, although it has been observed to stimulate the metabolism. [cite web | url = | title = Scholar Edition: gallium: Biological information | author = Mark Winter | publisher = The University of Sheffield and WebElements Ltd, UK]


Gallium (the Latin "Gallia" means "Gaul," essentially modern France) was discovered spectroscopically by Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1875 by its characteristic spectrum (two violet lines) in an examination of a zinc blende from the Pyrenees.cite journal | title = Caractères chimiques et spectroscopiques d'un nouveau métal, le gallium, découvert dans une blende de la mine de Pierrefitte, vallée d'Argelès (Pyrénées)| first = Lecoq | last = de Boisbaudran 493&ndas;495 | journal = Comptes rendus | volume = 81 | url = | accessdate = 2008-09-23] Before its discovery, most of its properties had been predicted and described by Dmitri Mendeleev (who had called the hypothetical element "eka-aluminium") on the basis of its position in his periodic table. Later, in 1875, Boisbaudran obtained the free metal by electrolysis of its hydroxide in potassium hydroxide solution. He named the element "gallia" after his native land of France. It was later claimed that, in one of those multilingual puns so beloved of men of science in the early 19th century, he had also named gallium after himself, as his name, "Le coq," is the French for "the rooster," and the Latin for "rooster" is "gallus"; however, in an 1877 article Le coq denied this supposition. (The supposition was also noted in "Building Blocks of the Universe," a book on the elements by Isaac Asimov.)


Gallium does not exist in free form in nature, nor do any high-gallium minerals exist to serve as a primary source of extraction of the element or its compounds. Gallium is found and extracted as a trace component in bauxite, coal, diaspore, germanite, and sphalerite. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates gallium reserves based on 50 ppm by weight concentration in known reserves of bauxite and zinc ores. Some flue dusts from burning coal have been shown to contain small quantities of gallium, typically less than 1 % by weight. [cite journal | title = Determination of gallium in coal and coal fly ash by electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry using slurry sampling and nickel chemical modification | author = Shan Xiao-quan, Wang Wen and Wen Bei | journal = J. Anal. At. Spectrom. | year = 1992 | volume = 7 | pages = 761–764 | doi = 10.1039/JA9920700761] [cite web | publisher = West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey |date=2002-03-02 | title = Gallium in West Virginia Coals | url =] [cite journal | author = O. Font, X. Querol, R. Juan, R. Casado, C. R. Ruiz, A. Lopez-Soler, P. Coca and F. G. Pena | title = Recovery of gallium and vanadium from gasification fly ash | year = 2007 | journal = Journal of Hazardous Materials | volume = 139 | issue = 3 | pages = 413–423 | doi = 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2006.02.041] [cite journal |title = Elements in Coal Ash and Their Industrial Significance| author =A. J. W. Headlee and Richard G. Hunter| pages = 548–551|doi = 10.1021/ie50519a028 | volume = 45 | issue = 3| year = 1953 | journal =Industrial and Engineering Chemistry]

Most gallium is extracted from the crude aluminium hydroxide solution of the Bayer process for producing alumina and aluminium. A mercury cell electrolysis and hydrolysis of the amalgam with sodium hydroxide leads to sodium gallate. Electrolysis then gives gallium metal. For semiconductor use, further purification is carried out using zone melting, or else single crystal extraction from a melt (Czochralski process). Purities of 99.9999% are routinely achieved and commercially widely available.


Semiconductor and electronic industry. The semiconductor applications are the main reason for the low-cost commercial availability of the extremely high-purity (99.9999+%) metal:
*As a component of the semiconductor gallium arsenide, the most common application for gallium is optoelectronic devices (mostly laser diodes and light-emitting diodes.) Smaller amounts of gallium arsenide are use for the manufacture of ultra-high speed logic chips and MOSFETs for low-noise microwave preamplifiers.
*Gallium is used as a dopant for the production of solid-state devices such as transistors. However, worldwide the actual quantity used for this purpose is minute, since dopant levels are usually of the order of a few parts per million.
*Gallium is the rarest component of new photovoltaic compounds (such as copper indium gallium selenium sulfide or Cu(In,Ga)(Se,S)2, recently announced by South African researchers) for use in solar panels as a more efficient alternative to crystalline silicon.

As a wetting, and alloy improvement agent:
*Because gallium wets glass or porcelain, gallium can be used to create brilliant mirrors.
*Gallium readily alloys with most metals, and has been used as a component in low-melting alloys. The plutonium used in nuclear weapon pits is machined by alloying with gallium to stabilize the allotropes of plutonium.
*Gallium added in quantities up to 2% in common solders can aid wetting and flow characteristics.

As part of an energy storage mechanism:
* Aluminium is reactive enough to reduce water to hydrogen, being oxidized to aluminium oxide. However, the aluminium oxide forms a protective coat which prevents further reaction. When gallium is alloyed with aluminium, the coat does not form, thus the alloy can potentially provide a solid hydrogen source for transportation purposes, which would be more convenient than a pressurized hydrogen tank. Resmelting the resultant aluminium oxide and gallium mixture to metallic aluminium and gallium and reforming these into electrodes would constitute most of the energy input into the system, while electricity produced by a hydrogen fuel cell could constitute an energy output. [cite press release | url = | title = Purdue Energy Center symposium to pave the road to a hydrogen economy |date=2007-04-10 | publisher = Purdue University] [cite news | publisher = | url = | title = New process generates hydrogen from aluminum alloy to run engines, fuel cells |date=2007-05-16] The thermodynamic efficiency of the aluminium smelting process is said to be approximately 50 percent.Fact|date=October 2007 Therefore, at most no more than half the energy that goes into smelting aluminium could be recovered by a fuel cell.

For liquid alloys:
*It has been suggested that a liquid gallium-tin alloy could be used to cool computer chips in place of water. As it conducts heat approximately 65 times better than water it can make a comparable coolant. []
*Gallium is used in some high temperature thermometers.
*A liquid Gallium-Indium-Tin alloy has been used in activating Aluminum. Activated Aluminum reacts with water generating Hydrogen and steam. This reaction is considered a feasible process in the hydrogen economy.

Biomedical applications:
*A low temperature liquid eutectic alloy of gallium, indium, and tin, is widely available in medical thermometers (fever thermometers), replacing problematic mercury. This alloy, with the trade name "Galinstan" (with the "-stan" referring to the tin), has a freezing point of −20°C.
*Gallium salts such as gallium citrate and gallium nitrate are used as radiopharmaceutical agents in nuclear medicine imaging. (The form or salt is not important, since it is the free dissolved gallium ion Ga3+ which is active). For these applications, a radioactive isotope such as 67Ga is used. The body handles Ga3+ in many ways as though it were iron, and thus it is bound (and concentrates) in areas of inflammation, such as infection, and also areas of rapid cell division. This allows such sites to be imaged by nuclear scan techniques. See gallium scan. This use has largely been replaced by fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) for positron emission tomography, "PET" scan.
*Gallium maltolate is in clinical and preclinical trials as a potential treatment for cancer, infectious disease, and inflammatory disease. [cite journal |author = L. R. Bernstein, T. Tanner, C. Godfrey, B. Noll | title = Chemistry and pharmacokinetics of gallium maltolate, a compound with high oral gallium bioavailability | journal = Metal Based Drugs | year = 2000 | volume = 7 | pages = 33–48 | doi = 10.1155/MBD.2000.33]
*Much research is being devoted to gallium alloys as substitutes for mercury dental amalgams, but these compounds have yet to see wide acceptance.
*Research is being conducted to determine whether gallium can be used to fight bacterial infections in people with cystic fibrosis. Gallium is similar in size to iron, an essential nutrient for respiration. When gallium is mistakenly picked up by bacteria such as "Pseudomonas", the bacteria's ability to respire is interfered with and the bacteria die. The mechanism behind this is that iron is redox active, which allows for the transfer of electrons during respiration, but gallium is redox inactive. [ [ A Trojan-horse strategy selected to fight bacteria] ] [ [ Gallium May Have Antibiotic-Like Properties] ]

*Magnesium gallate containing impurities (such as Mn2+), is beginning to be used in ultraviolet-activated phosphor powder.
*Neutrino detection. Possibly the largest amount of pure gallium ever collected in a single spot was the GALLEX neutrino detector operated in the early 1990s in an Italian mountain tunnel. The detector contained 12.2 tons of watered gallium-71. Solar neutrinos caused a few atoms of Ga-71 to become radioactive Ge-71, which were detected. The solar neutrino flux deduced was found to have a deficit of 40% from theory. This was not explained until better solar neutrino detectors and theories were constructed (see SNO). []
*As a liquid metal ion source for a focused ion beam.


While not considered toxic, the data about gallium are inconclusive. Some sources suggest that it may cause dermatitis from prolonged exposure; other tests have not caused a positive reaction. Like most metals, finely divided gallium loses its luster. Powdered gallium appears grey. When gallium is handled with bare hands, the extremely fine dispersion of liquid gallium droplets which results from wetting skin with the metal may appear as a grey skin stain.

ee also



* [ Los Alamos National Laboratory – Gallium]
* [ Webelements: detailed information on gallium]

External links

* [ – textbook information on gallium]
* [ Picture in the Element collection from Heinrich Pniok]
*Material safety data sheet at []
* [ – textbook information regarding gallium]
* [ environmental effects of gallium]
* [ Price development of gallium 1959-1998]
* [ Technology produces hydrogen by adding water to an alloy of aluminum and gallium]
* [ Gallium crystals ~99,9999% picture in the element collection from Heinrich Pniok]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gallium — Zinc ← Gallium → Germanium Al …   Wikipédia en Français

  • GALLIUM — De Gallia , France Symbole chimique: Ga Numéro atomique: 31 Masse atomique: 69,72 Point de fusion: 29,78 0C Point d’ébullition: 2 403 0C Densité (à 29,6 0C): 5,904. Métal très facilement liquéfiable, découvert par Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Gallium — Gal li*um, n. [NL.; perh. fr. L. Gallia France.] (Chem.) A rare metallic element, found combined in certain zinc ores. It is white, hard, and malleable, resembling aluminium, and remarkable for its low melting point (86[deg] F., 30[deg] C.).… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • gallium — Symbol: Ga Atomic number: 31 Atomic weight: 69.72 Soft silvery metallic element, belongs to group 13 of the periodic table. The two stable isotopes are Ga 69 and Ga 71. Eight radioactive isotopes are known, all having short half lives. Gallium… …   Elements of periodic system

  • Gallĭum — Ga, Metall, findet sich in sehr geringer Menge in Zinkblende von Bensberg und Pierrefitte, in der gelben asturischen Blende, im Toneisenstein vom Clevelanddistrikt in Yorkshire, auch in andern Eisenerzen, in Mangan , Nickel , Kobalt , Zinnerzen,… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Gallium — Ga (Atomgew. 69,9, spez. Gew. 5,9), sehr seltenes, im Jahre 1875 von Lecocq de Boisbaudran in Zinkblende mittels der Spektralanalyse entdecktes weißes Metall, bei 30° C. bereits schmelzend. In Salzsäure, Ammoniak und Kalilauge löslich. Mit… …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

  • Gallium — Gallĭum (chem. Zeichen Ga), Metall, findet sich in Spuren in Zinkblende, ist in reiner Gestalt weiß, von 5,95 spez. Gewicht, schmilzt bei 30°, läßt sich schneiden und hämmern …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Gallium — er et letsmelteligt metal …   Danske encyklopædi

  • gallium — metalic element, discovered by spectral lines in 1875 by French chemist Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1838 1912), who named it apparently in honor of his homeland (see GALLIC (Cf. Gallic)), but it has been suggested that he also punned on his own name… …   Etymology dictionary

  • gallium — [gal′ē əm] n. [ModL: so named (1875) by P. E. Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1838 1912), Fr chemist, after L Gallia, France, and as a pun on his name Lecoq (in L, gallus, a cock) + IUM] a bluish white, metallic chemical element, often a supercooled liquid …   English World dictionary

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