Chemical Elements

Gallium Is A Metal That Melts In Your Hands

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When you think of metal, you most likely think of strength and toughness. Well, element gallium is here to change that perception.

Related: Astatine, Earth's Rarest Element

Melts In Your Hands, Not On Your Table

The element gallium is an unexpected metal—it's a soft, silvery-white metal that is solid at room temperature (similar to aluminum) but it can literally melt in the palm of your hand. It's bizarre and a little unsettling to see, but it makes sense. The melting point for gallium (which is represented on the Periodic Table as Ga) is relatively low, at 85.6°F (29.8°C). However, the boiling point for this element is quite high, at 4044°F (2229°C). This quality makes gallium ideal for recording temperatures that would destroy a thermometer. According to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, gallium is "one of four metals — mercury, cesium, and rubidium — which can be liquid near room temperature and, thus, can be used in high-temperature thermometers. It has one of the longest liquid ranges of any metal and has a low vapor pressure even at high temperatures."

Related: Explore Eight Lesser-Known, Useful Elements

What Else Is It Good For?

Gallium is more than just a weirdo substance to poke at in the palm of your hand. As the Los Alamos National Laboratory explains, "Gallium wets glass or porcelain and forms a brilliant mirror when it is painted on glass. It is widely used in doping semiconductors and producing solid-state devices such as transistors. Magnesium gallate containing divalent impurities, such as Mn+2, is finding use in commercial ultraviolet-activated powder phosphors. Gallium arsenide is capable of converting electricity directly into coherent light. Gallium readily alloys with most metals, and has been used as a component in low-melting alloys."

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Written by Curiosity Staff April 21, 2016