GALLIUM


Atomic Number: 31

Atomic Symbol: Ga

Atomic Weight: 69.72

Electron Configuration: -8-18-3


(L. Gallia, France; also from Latin, gallus, a translation of Lecoq, a cock) Predicted and described by Mendeleev as ekaaluminum, and discovered spectroscopically by Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1875, who in the same year obtained the free metal by electrolysis of a solution of the hydroxide in KOH. Gallium is often found as a trace element in diaspore, sphalerite, germanite, bauxite, and coal. Some flue dusts from burning coal have been shown to contain as much 1.5% gallium. It is the only metal, except for mercury, cesium, and rubidium, which can be liquid near room temperaturs; this makes possible its use in high-temperature thermometers. It has one of the longest liquid ranges of any metal and has a low vapor pressure even at high temperatures. There is a strong tendency for gallium to supercool below its freezing point. Therefore, seeding may be necessary to initiate solidification. Ultra-pure gallium has a beautiful, silvery appearance, and the solid metal exhibits a conchoidal fracture similar to glass. The metal expands 3.1% on solidifying; therefore, it should not be stored in glass or metal containers, as they may break as the metal solidifies. Gallium wets glass or porcelain and forms a brilliant mirror when it is painted on glass. It is widely used in doping semiconductors and producing solid-state devices such as transistors. High-purity gallium is attacked only slowly by mineral acids. Magnesium gallate containing divalent impurities such as Mn+2 is finding use in commercial ultraviolet activiated powder phosphors. Gallium arsenide is capable of converting electricity directly into coherent light. Gallium readily alloys with most metals, and has been used as a component in low-melting alloys. Its toxicity appears to be of a low order, but should be handled with care until more data are forthcoming. The metal can be supplied in ultrapure form (99.99999+%). The cost is about $3/g.