Gallium was discovered through a spectroscope by a French chemist named Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1875. The name Gallium comes from the Latin word, Gallia, which means France. It is also possible that he named it after himself because Lecoq means the rooster in French and the Latin word for rooster is “gallus” but he denied that claim.
Gallium is a silvery blue metal with a unique characteristic. It has a melting point of only 85.6 degrees Fahrenheit so it will actually melt in your hand. It looks very similar to mercury but with less surface tension and unlike mercury, it is non-toxic. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to eat it but it won’t hurt you if you get it on your skin. The worst it will do is leave a grey stain that can be removed with soap and water. At room temperature Gallium is a brittle solid and can be cut with a knife. When it is frozen, it expands like water does. It doesn’t have very many typical metal attributes because it is located very close to non-metals in the periodic table. It isn’t considered to be an insulator, however. It is a semi-conductor. You won’t find it in its free elemental form in nature. It is normally paired with other elements and can be found in aluminum ore bauxite and coal. Gallium in purer form is a byproduct of zinc and aluminum production. Once it has been purified, it is used to form the compounds, Gallium Arsenide, and Gallium Nitride. These Gallium compounds are used in analog integrated circuits, LED lights, high temperature thermometers, brilliant mirrors, solar panels, and laser diodes. As technology gets more advanced, we will definitely see the element Gallium being used to its full potential.
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