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zinc gallium germanium
Name, Symbol, Number gallium, Ga, 31
Chemical series poor metals
Group, Period, Block 13 (IIIA), 4 , p
Density, Hardness 5904 kg/m3, 1.5
Appearance silvery white
Atomic properties
Atomic weight 69.723 amu
Atomic radius (calc.) 130 (136)pm
Covalent radius 126 pm
van der Waals radius 187 pm
Electron configuration [Ar]3d10 4s2 4p1
e- 's per energy level 2, 8, 18, 3
Oxidation states (Oxide) 3 (amphoteric)
Crystal structure orthorhombic
Physical properties
State of matter Solid
Melting point 302.91 K (85.57 F)
Boiling point 2477 K (3999 F)
Molar volume 11.80 10-6 m3/mol
Heat of vaporization 258.7 kJ/mol
Heat of fusion 5.59 kJ/mol
Vapor pressure 9.31 E-36 Pa at 302.9 K
Speed of sound 2740 m/s at 293.15 K
Electronegativity 1.81 (Pauling scale)
Specific heat capacity 370 J/(kg*K)
Electrical conductivity 6.78 10-6/(mohm)
Thermal conductivity 40.6 W/(m*K)
1st ionization potential 578.8 kJ/mol
2nd ionization potential 1979.3 kJ/mol
3rd ionization potential 2963 kJ/mol
4th ionization potential 6180 kJ/mol
SI units & STP are used except where noted.

Gallium is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Ga and atomic number 31. A rare, soft silvery metallic poor metal, gallium is brittle at low temperatures but is liquid above room temperature and can indeed melt in the hand. It occurs in trace amounts in bauxite and zinc ores. Gallium arsenide is used as a semiconductor, most notably in light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Notable characteristics

Very-pure gallium has a stunning silvery color and its solid metal fractures conchoidally like glass. Gallium metal expands by 3.1 percent when it solidifies, and therefore should not be stored in either glass or metal containers. Gallium also corrodes most other metals by diffusing into their metal lattice.

Gallium is one of four metals (with caesium, mercury, and rubidium) which are liquid at near normal room temperature, and can therefore be used in high-temperature thermometers. It is also notable for having one of the largest liquid ranges for a metal, and for having a low vapor pressure at high temperatures.

This metal has a strong tendency to supercool below its melting point, thus necessitating seeding in order to solidify. High-purity gallium is attacked slowly by mineral acids. The melting point temperature is very low, T=30 C, and the density is higher in the liquid state than in the crystalline state (like in the case of water; the opposite effect is normally found for metals).

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 2.44 ) and six other neighbors within additional 0.39 . 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 is seen as the fundamental building block of the crystal. The compound, gallium arsenide is a semiconductor commonly used in light-emitting diodes).


Analog integrated circuits are the most common application for gallium, with optoelectronic devices (mostly laser diodes and light-emitting diodes) as the second largest end use.

  • Since it wets glass or porcelain, gallium is used to create brilliant mirrors.
  • Used widely to dope semiconductors and produce solid-state devices like transistors.
  • Gallium readily alloys with most metals, and has been used as a component in low-melting alloys. The plutonium pits of nuclear weapons employ an alloy with gallium to stabilize of the allotropes of plutonium. Much research is being devoted to gallium alloys as substitutes for mercury dental amalgams, but such compounds have yet to see wide acceptance. Gallium added in quantities up to 2% in common solders can aid wetting and flow characteristics.
  • Gallium is used in some high temperature thermometers, and a eutectic alloy of gallium, indium, and tin is widely available in fever thermometers, replacing mercury. This alloy, with the trade name Galinstan, has a freezing point of -20C.
  • Magnesium gallate containing impurities (such as Mn+2), is beginning to be used in ultraviolet-activated phosphor powder.


Gallium (Latin Gallia meaning "France"; also gallus, meaning "cock") was discovered spectroscopically by Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1875 by its characteristic spectrum (two violet lines) in an examination of a zinc blend from the Pyrenees. Before its discovery, most of its properties had been predicted and described by Dmitri Mendeleev (who called the hypothetical element eka-aluminium) on the basis of its position in his periodic table. Later in 1875, Boisbaudran obtained the free metal through the electrolysis of its hydroxide in KOH solution. He named the element after his native land of France and, in one of those multilingual puns so beloved of men of science of the early 19th century, after himself, as 'Lecoq' = the rooster, and Latin for rooster is "gallus".


Gallium does not exist in pure form in nature, nor are gallium compounds a primary source of extraction. It is rather found and extracted as a trace component in bauxite, coal, diaspore, germanite, and sphalerite. The USGS estimates gallium reserves based on 50 ppm concentration in known reserves of bauxite and zinc ores. Some flue dusts from burning coal have been shown to contain as much 1.5 percent gallium.


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