Gallium Metal Images

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Gallium Metal Packaging

Gallium Metal
Terence Bell

Tinkering with gallium

The growing commercial use of various minor metals has increased the availability of such metals to everyday scientists, home chemists and the generally curious. 

Gallium is one such metal that has long attracted the curious due to its unique properties, particularly that it can remain liquid at room temperature.

In industrial applications, gallium is most often alloyed with arsenic or nitrogen to form gallium arsenide (GaAs) and gallium nitride (GaAs). Both compounds are binary III-V semiconductors, which are used in the manufacture of integrated circuits, infra-red light emitting diodes and solar cells. 

Recently, I was tinkering with some gallium and thought I would take some photos to show some of the metal's special properties. 

 

Gallium Metal Packaging

Gallium metal can be sold in various purities and quantities, but a standard commercial purity is >99.99%. Due to its corrosive nature, which eats away at other metals, as well as its low melt temperature (around 30°C / 85°F), gallium should be packaged in high density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic bottles. 

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Gallium Metal and Hot Water

Gallium Metal Bottle
Terence Bell

Gallium Metal & Hot Water

Many clients call me asking about the best to get gallium metal out of its bottle. Simple answer: Hot water. Boil some water and put the bottle in (HDPE should be more than stable in the hot water). It may take some time but the gallium will begin to liquify. 

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Gallium Beginning to Melt

Gallium Metal Melted
Terence Bell

Gallium Beginning to Melt

After about five minutes in the hot water, you will begin to see the gallium melting. This can be poured out and the process continued.  

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Hot Water and Gallium

Gallium in water
Terence Bell

Hot Water and Gallium

If the bottle in water method is too slow for you hot water can be poured directly into the bottle. Gallium metal is stable in contact with water, although the water may impact the purity or oxidize the surface of the metal. In fact, purified hot water is used in the production and packaging at major gallium factories. 

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Pouring Melted Gallium Metal

Gallium metal pour
Terence Bell

Pouring Melted Gallium

The weight of the metal can be felt and seen in the way gallium runs while it pours from the bottle. 

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Melted Gallium

Melted gallium
Terence Bell

Melted Gallium

Once poured, gallium will not immediately solidify. It may take more than 24 hours to return to a solid metal. This process can be sped up by using a fridge or freezer.  

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Crystallizing Gallium Metal

Gallium Metal Crystallizing
Terence Bell

Crystallizing Gallium Metal

Depending on the speed of solidification (i.e. the temperature at which gallium cools), the gallium may crystallize. Liquid gallium can also be 'seeded' with a solid piece of metal to encourage the growth of a crystal. You can see a crystal that began to form in the centre of this bottle. 

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A 45kg Bucket of Gallium

Gallium metal bucket
Terence Bell

A Big Bucket of Gallium

Here's a photo of a bucket of liquid gallium that I took at a factory in China. This bucket probably contains more than 45kgs (100lbs) of high purity gallium. A very surreal appearance that makes one begin to understand why alchemists seemed to have a preoccupation with mercury