This metal is like mercury but safe
Imagine holding a metal that can melt in your hands at room temperature! That's gallium for you.
Discovered in 1874, the unique metal was named after the Latin term for France, Gallia. What makes gallium stand out from other metals is its peculiar characteristics, which include a low melting point of 85 °F (25 °C).
Gallium can be found in many optoelectronics, such as LEDs, and in household items, such as alloys, computers, and DVDs. The metal, a safer alternative to mercury, is also used in making thermometers and mirrors.
Gallium, a metal as soft as aluminum, is rare, found only as a mixture making up just 0.0019 percent of the Earth's crust. The metal, which can only be removed through smelting, has been mined in Germany, China, and Kazakhstan.
Gallium has a brittle nature when in solid form and melts easily. The metal is, however, very hard to boil, and one needs temperatures crossing 3,999 °F (2,204 °C) to achieve this feat.
The metal is primarily used in electronics, with it being commonplace in semiconductors and transistors. The nature of gallium to turn electricity into light has resulted in it being widely used in LEDs.
Gallium, when mixed with nitride, has the potential to replace Silicon in a variety of day-to-day applications.
Here's how. The former features a wider band gap than the latter, which is basically how well a metal can conduct electricity. This property enables gallium nitride to sustain higher voltages and higher speeds for electric currents. These properties result in making such electronic devices more efficient by losing less energy than similarly-specced silicon devices. This also translated into better packaging and an overall reduction in the size of such devices.
Additionally, gallium nitride's ability to sustain higher temperatures could open up new possibilities in car manufacturing as it could enable tighter packaging options. The non-toxic nature of gallium can enable its alloys to replace Mercury dental fillings.
Gallium also took centre stage in a large neutrino experiment that was held between 1991 to 1997 to prove theories about Solar Neutrinos and the sun's energy creation system. The detector tank was filled with a gallium trichloride-hydrochloric acid solution, which contained a massive 30.3 tons of gallium.
The possibility of gallium nitride becoming a viable alternative to Silicon can prove to be a masterstroke for advanced electronic devices in the future. It can also be used in medicines and nuclear weapons.