Gallium: Melting our Hearts Away
Gallium is a rare earth metal that was first predicted to exist in the future by Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev who is also the father of the periodic table. This is a metal that doesn’t exist in pure form in the natural world. That being said, many people are just beginning to find out more about this rare metal thanks to the buzz that’s been generated about it over the last couple of years.
Gallium looks like mercury with the exception that it’s relatively safe. In fact, it’s so safe that’s it’s often used in pharmaceutical medication and products as well as the electronics we use on a day-to-day basis. Gallium is relatively unstable anywhere above 23 degree celcius, and it melts into a free-flowing metallic mass when subjected to higher temperatures.
Gallium attacks other metals
Gallium has the unique ability to attack other metals such as aluminum, and it has been known to completely eat into and corrode steel and other common metals that we use to make items such as cookware. Because of this, it’s a good idea not to leave gallium near any other metal.
Despite the fact that gallium isn’t toxic to humans, it stains whatever it comes into contact with, leaving a silvery-grey residue that’s notoriously hard to clean off. If you would like to handle it, you may want to wear a pair of gloves first to save yourself the hassle of a messy cleanup.
It’s not possible to retrieve free-form gallium from nature. Scientists however have been successful in extracting traces of this unusual metal from bauxite as well as sphalerite. Despite the fact that it’s considered to be non-toxic, do not ingest this metal or leave it on your skin for too long. This is because it’s been shown to cause renal toxicity when injected into animals as well as contact dermatitis on individuals who are prone to allergic reactions and those that have sensitive skin.
Gallium can also shatter like glass, so care must be taken not to drop it when it’s a solid. You should ideally have a container where you can store the metal when you’re not handling it, and you might want to consider placing it in a cool and dark area to stop it from melting and morphine every so often.
Gallium also acts like an organic living thing such as the heart when immersed in sulfuric acid. It has been shown to move l like a beating heart because of the tension exerted on the metal by the acid. Do not attempt this experiment since sulfuric acid is highly corrosive.
Gallium isn’t magnetic, and it’s a good idea to use a disposable surface if you’d like to handle it or just watch it do its thing since it may leave a large stain that’s next to impossible to clean up. It can be shaped into things like spoons, cubes and containers if you use a bit of creativity. It makes for a great gift for anyone who’s into science and those with a curious mind.