Gallium (Ga) Element: Properties, Uses, Health Effects

Gallium is the metallic element with the atomic number 31 and is represented by the symbol ‘Ga’ in the periodic table. It is classified as a post transition and belongs to the p-block of group 13 of the periodic table. It is a silvery-white metal similar to aluminum.

The abundance in the Earth’s crust is approximately 16.9 ppm. This is similar to the lead, cobalt, and niobium crustal abundances. The Earth’s crust does not contain gallium as a free element, and the few high-content minerals, including gallite (CuGaS2), are too rare to be used as a primary source.

Gallium (Ga) Element
Gallium (Ga) Element

History of Gallium

  • Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, was the first to predict the existence of gallium in 1975, naming it “eka-aluminum” based on its position in his periodic table. Several properties of “eka-aluminum”such as its density, melting point, oxide character, and bonding in chloride were predicted Mendeleev which came close to that of gallium.
  • French chemist Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran discovered gallium in 1875 using spectroscopy from its characteristics spectrum (two violet lines) in the sample of sphalerite.
  • The name for the element gallium derives from the Latin word “Gallia”, meaning Gaul.

Occurrence of Gallium

  • Gallium doesn’t exist in nature as a free element. Furthermore, there are no high-gallium minerals that could be used as a primary source of the element’s or its compounds’ extraction. Instead, bauxite, coal, diaspore, germanite, and sphalerite all contain trace amounts of gallium that can be found and extracted.
  • The majority of gallium is extracted as a by-product of aluminum hydroxide solution from bauxite in the Bayer process.
  • Gallium can also be extracted electrochemically straight from a sodium hydroxide solution.
  • China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and Ukraine ar the leading producers of gallium.

Isotopes of Gallium

There are two naturally occurring stable isotopes of gallium: 69Ga and 71Ga

Naturally occurring isotopes

IsotopeMass / DaNatural abundance (atom %)
69Ga68.925580 (3)60.108 (9)
71Ga70.9247005 (25)39.892 (9)

69Ga isotope is used for studies of superconductivity.

Elemental Properties of Gallium

Electronic Configuration[Ar] 3d10 4s2 4p1
Atomic Number31
Atomic Weight69.723 g.mol -1  
State at 20°CSolid
Group, Period, and Block13, 4, p-block
Density5.91 -3 at 20 °C
Ionic radius0.083 nm (+3)
Van der Waals radius0.161 nm
Electron shells2, 8, 18, 3
Neutrons in most abundant isotope40

Physical Properties of Gallium

  • The density of Gallium is 5.1 grams per cubic centimeter.
  • Because body temperature is higher than the element’s point of melting, holding gallium in the hand will cause it to melt.
  • One of the four non-radioactive metals that are liquid at ambient temperature is gallium. Rubidium, cesium, and mercury being other three.
  • Galium is soft enough to be cut with a knife.
  • Gallium is soluble in most acids and alkalis.
  • Gallium is poorer electrical conductor than lead and is used as a semiconductor material.
  • Gallium can release poisonous fumes when heated, and these gases can combine with water to generate a corrosive alkaline solution.
  • Additionally, gallium has the peculiar characteristic of expanding after freezing as water.
Color/physical appearancesilvery blue
Melting point/freezing point29.7646°C, 85.5763°F, 302.9146 K 
Boiling point2229°C, 4044°F, 2502 K 
Density5.91 g cm-3 at 20°C

Chemical Properties of Gallium

  • Chemically, gallium is a fairly reactive element. In contrast to alkali metals, it is not very reactive. Mercury, cesium, and rubidium are the four non-radioactive metals that are liquid at ambient temperature.
  • Gallium is the only one of these elements which is neither extremely reactive like Caesium and Rubidium nor very toxic like Mercury.
  • Gallium is somewhat stable in both water and air; however, it interacts with both alkaline and acidic solutions.

Chemical Reactions of Gallium

  • Reaction of gallium with air

Gallium reacts with oxygen, O2 forming gallium(III) oxide

4 Ga(s) + 3 O2(s)  2 Ga2O3(s)

  • Reaction of gallium with bases

Gallium dissolves in aqueous alkali.

  • Reaction of gallium with sulfur

Gallium reacts with sulfur forming gallium sulfide

16 Ga(s) + 3 S8(s)  8 Ga2S3(s)

Uses Of Gallium

There are a numerous use of gallium that are discussed below.

Used As Semiconductors: Gallium is used to manufacture semiconductors to an extent of about 95% of its global production. Gallium of the highest purity is needed for this.Gallium can be combined with arsenic to create different materials, such as gallium arsenide (GaAs), gallium antimonide (GaSb), gallium nitride (GaN), etc.

These materials are used in computers, photovoltaic cells, transistors, aerospace power electronics, commercial wireless infrastructure, satellites, cable television transmission, infrared laser diodes.,etc

Used As Alloys: Gallium is utilized to create various alloys because of its distinctive characteristics. Particularly, it serves as the fundamental component of low melting alloys. Medicinal Thermometer High-Performance Computing Nuclear Weapons requires gallium alloys.

Used In Pharmaceuticals: Numerous gallium salts are used in pharmaceuticals. Gallium also appears to be a promising ingredient in the treatment of cancer because of its newly identified anti-cancer properties.

Health Effects Of Gallium

Gallium is a trace element that is found in very tiny amount in human body. It has not been demonstrated to be helpful for bodily function, and it is most likely only found in tiny quantities in the natural world, water, and residue on vegetables and fruits. Human contact with pure gallium poses no risk to them. However,it has a reputation for leaving a stain on the hands.

However, some gallium compounds can be extremely harmful. Gallium(III) chloride, for instance, can produce catastrophic disorders such as pulmonary edema and partial paralysis as well as throat discomfort, breathing problems, and chest pain upon acute contact.

Environmental Effects of Gallium

Gallium is utilized in semiconductors as a doping agent. Neither mining nor the use of gallium has a negative influence on the environment.
Many of these elements have little information about their environmental behavior or human health effects. This is true for indium and gallium, two crucial elements in technology. greater environmental concentrations of indium and gallium present the possibility of greater environmental exposure, albeit the degree of this exposure is unknown.
Environmental exposures may also rise as a result of metal emissions during processing, upstream mining, and smelting processes, consumer usage, or end-of-life recycling or disposal. Vulnerable populations, such as children, are particularly vulnerable to electronic trash recycling, resulting in a major environmental health gap.

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  •  Arora, Amit (2005). Text Book Of Inorganic Chemistry. Discovery Publishing House. pp. 389–399. ISBN 978-81-8356-013-9.
  • Downs, Anthony J.; Pulham, Colin R. (1994). Sykes, A. G. (ed.). Advances in Inorganic Chemistry. Vol. 41. Academic Press. pp. 198–199. ISBN 978-0-12-023641-1.
  • Cotton, F. Albert; Wilkinson, Geoffrey; Murillo, Carlos A.; Bochmann, Manfred (1999). Advanced Inorganic Chemistry (6th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 978-0-471-19957-1.
  • Hinds, John Iredelle Dillard (1908). Inorganic Chemistry: With the Elements of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

About Author

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Jyoti Bashyal

Jyoti Bashyal, a graduate of the Central Department of Chemistry, is an avid explorer of the molecular realm. Fueled by her fascination with chemical reactions and natural compounds, she navigates her field's complexities with precision and passion. Outside the lab, Jyoti is dedicated to making science accessible to all. She aspires to deepen audiences' understanding of the wonders of various scientific subjects and their impact on the world by sharing them with a wide range of readers through her writing.

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