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Gallium Element

What is gallium?

Gallium is a p-block chemical element or soft, silvery metal of group-13 of the periodic table with atomic number 31 and symbol Ga. The use of gallium has sharply increased in recent years due to the development of semiconductor technology. It is found mostly in sulfide minerals containing zinc.

Gallium element or metal facts, symbol, properties, uses and found on periodic table

Among group-13 elements, the extremely high melting point of boron indicates that it has a very strong binding force. Aluminum is comparatively soft. Gallium is liquid over a wide range of temperatures and is used in high-temperature thermochemistry.

Who discovered gallium?

In 1870, Mendeleev made wonderful predictions about gallium and he named it eka-aluminum.

In 1875, France chemist Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran discovered or isolated the element from crude zinc blende. The name gallium was given in honor of France (Latin name Gallia).

Gallium in the periodic table

The element is placed in period-4 and group-13 in the periodic table. It is a p-block element that lies between aluminum and indium.

Position of gallium metal or element on the periodic table

Properties of gallium

It is low melting, soft, silvery lustrous metal. The low melting point of Ga has no simple explanation. It might be explained by the filled d10 configuration. But the boiling point of Ga is not lower than Al. Therefore, it has the longest liquid range of any element.

It is not attacked by water owing to the protective oxide coating. Ga dissolves in aqueous hydrochloric acid by forming a Ga+3 ion. It is scarcely attacked by dilute sulfuric acid but concentrated sulfuric acid is reduced to form sulfur dioxide. Dilute and concentrated nitric acid formed a protective layer on the metal surface.

Symbol Ga
Discovery Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1875
Name derived from The Latin name for France Gallia
Common isotope 31Ga69
Periodic properties
Atomic number 31
Atomic weight 69.723
Electron per shell 2, 8, 18, 3
Electronic configuration [Ar] 3d10 4s2 4p1
Group 13
Period 4
Block p-block
Melting point 29.76 °C
Boiling point 2400 °C
Density 5.91 g/cm3
Molar heat capacity 25.86 J mol−1 K−1
Electrical resistivity 270 nΩ m
Crystal structure ​orthorhombic
Chemical properties
Atomic radius (non-bonded) 1.87 Å
Covalent radius 1.23 Å
Common oxidation number +3
Electron affinity 41.49 kJ mol−1
Electronegativity 1.81 (Pauling scale)
Ionization energy
1st 2nd 3rd
578.8 1979.3 2963
CAS number 7440-55-3

Where is gallium found?

Gallium is found on earth much less abundant than aluminum. It is found associated with aluminum, coal, and sulfide mineral of zinc and germanium.

Previously, it was obtained from the flew dust emitted during the burning of coal or roasting of sulfide ores. Now, it is obtained as a by-product in the aluminum industry.

Production process

Previously, it was extracted from ashes of coal or electrolysis of gallium salts.

  • At present, gallium is produced as a by-product of aluminum extraction. Ga(OH)3 is a stronger acid than Al(OH)3 due to the greater electric polarization power of the Ga+3 ion.
  • Sodium gallate (Na3GaO3) solution is obtained during the purification of bauxite by Bayer’s process.
  • The solution containing sodium gallate is electrolysis to obtain the metal.
  • Very pure gallium which is used in semiconductors is made by further chemical treatment followed by zone refining.

Interesting facts about gallium

The middle member Ga of group-13 differs remarkably from the first member of group-13.

  • It exhibits greater chemical reactivity at moderate temperatures.
  • Gallium has distinct cationic chemistry in aqueous solutions.
  • It has no series of volatile hydrides and cluster compounds like boranes and carboranes.

Chemical compounds

Gallium oxide

Ga (III) oxide is the chemical compound of metal having the molecular formula Ga2O3. At high temperatures, it formed α-Ga2O3, and at low temperatures, it formed γ-Ga2O3.

It is used as an intermediate for the purification of Ga metal.

Gallium hydride

Gallium hydride (GaH3) is similar to that of AlH3 but it is thermally less stable. The viscosity of GaH3 is very high which decomposes completely to the free element at room temperature.

It acts as a lewis acid. It may be prepared by reacting lithium gallanate (LiGaH4) with gallium (III) chloride at −30 °C.
3 LiGaH4 + GaCl3 → 3 LiCl + 4 GaH3.

Ga (III) chloride

Ga (III) chloride is a volatile crystal lattice containing dimeric molecules with the molecular formula GaH3. It is prepared by heating metal in atmospheric chlorine or HCl gas.

GaH3 forms long white needles which fume in moist air due to the formation of HCl through hydrolysis. The dimeric form of GaH3 is formed below 600°C. Ga (III) chloride is an efficient chemical catalyst that AlCl3 for some hydrocarbon synthesis processes.

Ga (III) sulfate

Ga(III) sulfate is the chemical compound of gallium with the molecular formula Ga2(SO4)3, or Ga2(SO4)3, xH2O. The crystalline form like Ga2(SO4)3, 18H2O is obtained by dissolving gallium metal in a dilute sulfuric acid solution.

Uses of Gallium

  • In recent years, the use of gallium is sharply increased due to the development of semiconductor technology.
  • GaAs are largely used in light-emitting diodes or LEDs. Such types of LED are familiar in pocket calculators and similar output display devices.
  • It can directly convert electricity into coherent light or laser diodes.
  • Gallium metal is also used for making infrared emitting diodes, infrared detectors, and photomultiplier tubes. GaAs1-xPx system now virtually dominated the LED market.
  • It is very useful in high-temperature thermometers, barometers, pharmaceuticals, and other nuclear medicine tests.
  • It is used in high-temperature liquid seals, low-temperature solders, manometric fluid, and heat transfer media.