Photo by: Getty Images

Getty Images

Gallium Is A Metal That Melts In Your Hands

By: Joanie Faletto

Gallium will change your perception of metal.

August 01, 2019

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

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."

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."

This article first appeared on Curiosity.com.

Next Up

If The Earth's Core Is So Hot, Why Doesn't It Melt?

The Earth's core same temperature as the surface of the sun.

Large Rocket Debris Impacts Earth Off African Coast

The fourth largest piece of space debris ever re-entered the earth's atmosphere yesterday and made a splash just off the coast of Africa. Narrowly missing some major landmarks in its path, this piece of a rocket could have caused some major damage.

Tracking Hurricane Dorian: Here's Everything You Need to Know

Here is what you need to know about the tropical cyclone making its way to the U.S. mainland.

Things That Make You Go Boom: The Explosion Show

Science Channel is set to ring-in the New Year with a BANG!

Avengineers Assemble! Discovery Teams Up with Mark Rober and Jimmy Kimmel In All-New Prank Series

Mark Rober and his team of “Avengineers” are out to catch troublemakers with some ingenious inventions.

Counting Fish: Making Sealife Sustainable for Future Generations

Do we really know how many fish there are in the sea? The short answer is no, but science is bringing us closer to understanding marine populations and maintaining them for future generations.

Being Kind to Yourself Has Real Health Benefits

Studies show that self-criticism may damage the immune system. Now researchers believe being kind to yourself may lower the risk of disease. Learn more at Discovery.com.

Raindrop Electricity: Generating 'Blue Energy' from Rainfall

Water-power has been used for thousands of years as a renewable energy source, so what are we doing today to make rain water work for us?

One Way to Tell the Difference Between a Rock and a Fossil Is to Lick It

There's no need for fancy, how powered equipment with this method.

Apollo 12: Return of the Astronaut

Apollo 12, the second manned mission to land on the Moon was anything but predictable. Here’s a look back at what happened 50 years ago today.