Gallium

This may be a little outside of the physics range, but I just thought it was cool.

Gallium is the 31st element on the periodic table. It was predicted to exist by Dmitri Mendeleev, and was discovered soon after by Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1875. At the time, Gallium provided few if any practical applications. Things have changed though; but first, a little bit about how cool gallium is.

Gallium is a solid at room temperature – this is most times defined as twenty-two degrees Celsius, or something fairly close. Warm it up a few degrees, to 29.7°C (85.5°F), and it melts. This means that a block of gallium will turn liquid on a hot day, or even just in your hand.

gallium 1 (this is not photo-shopped)

Or how about you try a spoon made out of gallium? I wouldn’t suggest using it to stir your coffee:

gallium spoonWarning: Don’t actually use a gallium spoon for anything except to make fun little gifs; although it is considered non-toxic, you don’t want that stuff in your food.

And if you want to see something very cool, get a coke can (empty or full, each will provide a slightly different result considering the full can is under pressure).

Aluminum is actually an extremely reactive element, which is strange because we encounter it in our everyday lives. The reason that we don’t encounter reactive aluminum is that solid aluminum actually forms layer of non-reactive aluminum oxide that protects the aluminum from reacting with other materials.

When gallium is placed on aluminum (and the oxide is scratched off for a better, faster reaction), gallium atoms invade the aluminum, resulting in an extremely fragile and brittle material.

gallium pop can

There are a few practical uses of gallium too (not nearly exciting). It is used in thermometers in replace of mercury because gallium is much less toxic. It is also used in semi conductors, LED’s, and lasers. Hope you enjoyed this; go buy some gallium if you wanna have some fun.

8 responses to “Gallium

  1. Interesting. I researched Gallium Arsenide (semiconductor) at CMU last year. The properties are very neat.

  2. Definitely getting some of this.

  3. Angelina Conti

    Wow very cool. I actually have never looked into the properties of Gallium, so I am glad that you wrote about it! It seems like a very cool element.

  4. Molly Eckman

    While I’m not quite as emotionally attached to gallium as Boyd, it does seem like a pretty cool metal. I’m guessing you could mold it pretty easily , which would be fun to use as a kind of liquid playdoh.

  5. John Connolly

    I checked out a few more youtube videos of gallium after reading this and I completely agree with Boyd’s first sentence. The rest is a little weird… But ya. Gallium is really sorta awesome. I want some.

  6. Boyd Warwick-Clark

    I am amazed and I actually want to go out and buy tons of gallium and just jump in it as it melts around me, encompassing my body under a sea of silver. I become one with the gallium, drinking it as if it were unicorn blood, letting it course through my veins and sift through my hair. I emerge for but a second to inhale sharply, a necessary shackle that restrains my true desires to become gallium itself. From hither on, I slip back into my metallic paradise. I am the sun, and I have found my moon, never to separate again.

  7. Darren Slotnick

    Pretty cool stuff. It would be a cool prank to hand someone a spoon of gallium and watch it fall apart as they try to use it! Haha.

  8. Nicole Bernstein

    This is really neat–especially the fact that its non toxic, so you can actually hold it in your hand and watch it melt without being afraid of getting poisoned.

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