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L. Gallia, France; also from Latin, gallus, a translation of Lecoq, a cock
Minerals; Inorganic; Column Three
Description of the substance
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 temperatures; 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 activated 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.