8 Characteristics of Gallium

Gallium is a chemical element with the symbol Ga and atomic number 31. It is a soft metal that tends to be liquid at around room temperature. Following are some general characteristics of gallium:

  1. Physical Properties:
  • Physical State: Gallium at room temperature is in the form of a metallic solid.
  • Melting Point: Gallium has a relatively low melting point, around 29.76°C (85.57°F), so it can melt in human hands.
  1. Chemical Properties:
  • Reactivity: Gallium is reactive and reacts with oxygen and water, forming an oxide layer that protects its surface.
  • Aluminum Mimic: Gallium has similar chemical properties to aluminum and is sometimes used as a substitute for aluminum in some applications.
  1. Abundance and Resources:
  • Natural Abundance: Gallium is not found freely in nature in large quantities, but is found in several minerals such as bauxite and zinc ore.
  • Primary Source: Gallium can be obtained as a byproduct of aluminum and zinc production.
  1. Semiconductor Properties:

o Gallium has semiconductor properties and is used in making semiconductor devices such as diodes and transistors.

  1. Uses:
  • Semiconductor Industry: Gallium is used in the manufacture of semiconductor devices, such as diodes, transistors, and light detectors.
  • Optical Industry: Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is a semiconductor material used in the manufacture of optoelectronic devices, such as laser diodes.
  • Low Melting: Gallium’s ability to melt at low temperatures makes it used in thermal technologies such as thermometers and temperature switches.
  1. Atomic Weight:

o The atomic weight of gallium is approximately 69.72 grams/mol.

  1. Isotopes:
  • Gallium has several stable isotopes, including Ga-69, Ga-71, and Ga-72.
  1. Uses in Radiography:
  • Gallium-67 is used in medical imaging (scintigraphy) as a radiopharmaceutical agent to examine inflammation and neoplasms.
  1. Electronic Characteristics:
  • The electron configuration of gallium is [Ar] 3d10 4s2 4p1.

Gallium has unique properties, especially in terms of its low melting temperature and semiconductor properties. Because of these properties, gallium has special applications in the technology and electronics industries.

Oxidation state and bond types

Gallium has three electrons in the outermost shell. Many of its simple compounds, such as GaCl3, are covalent when anhydrous. Gallium forms ions when in solution.

There is Ga(+I). But why is a monovalent compound formed? Gallium has the s1p1 valence electronic configuration.

Monovalence can be explained if the electrons remain paired, without participating in the bonds. It’s called the “inert torque effect.”

If the energy needed to unpair them is greater than the energy released when they form bonds, then the electrons will remain paired.

Gallium is apparently divalent in a few compounds, such as GaCl2. However, it is not truly divalent because the structure of GaCl2 has been shown to be Ga+[GaCl4]-, which contains Ga(I) and Ga(III).

Applications

Most of the gallium production goes to the semiconductor industry for the manufacture of electronic components and transistors for televisions.

It is also used as an additive for solders and in mixtures with other metals to produce low melting temperature alloys.

Gallium is also used in the manufacture of mirrors due to its ability to impregnate glass and porcelain surfaces.

Gallium arsenide can be used in the production of lasers and microwave generators. It can also directly convert electricity into light.

Temperature sensors are examples of devices that use the semiconducting properties of gallium arsenide.