Facts About Germanium

Electron configuration and elemental properties of germanium.
Credit: Greg Robson/Creative Commons, Andrei Marincas | Shutterstock
Atomic Number: 32
Atomic Symbol: Ge
Atomic Weight: 72.63
Melting Point: 1,720.85 F (938.25 C)
Boiling Point: 5,131.4 F (2,833 C)

Word origin: Germanium comes from Germania, the Latin term for the German region.

Discovery: Dmitri Mendeleev, the Russian chemist who created the first version of the Periodic Table of the Elements, predicted the existence of the metal as ekasilicon in 1871. German chemist Clemens Winkler discovered the element in 1886.

Properties of germanium

In its pure state, germanium is brittle and crystalline. It is a grayish-white metalloid that keeps its luster even at room temperature.

polycrystalline germanium
Germanium is a silvery white metalloid. This is a 2-by-3 centimeter piece of polycrystalline germanium, weighing about 12 grams.
Credit: Jurii/Creative Commons

It is a very important semiconductor.

Germanium has five naturally occurring isotopes, 70Ge, 72Ge, 73Ge, 74Ge, and 76Ge.

Sources of germanium

Germanium is found in argyrodite a sulfide of germanium and silver, as well as germanite, a mineral that contains 8 percent of the element.

Germanium mineral deposits are found in Utah, Colorado, Washington and in Russia.

The element is also obtained in the dust of smelters after processing zinc ores, and it is a by-product of certain coals.

Germanium is also available by treating germanium dioxide with carbon or hydrogen.

Refining techniques have led to the production of crystalline germanium for use in semiconductors with an impurity of only 1 part in 1,010.

Uses of germanium

Germanium is most commonly used as a semiconductor in many electronics. When doped with arsenic, gallium or other elements, it can be used as a transistor.  Germanium has practical applications in:

  • fluorescent lamps and some LEDs
  • solar panels
  • thermal imaging applications
  • to detect sources of radiation such as in airport scanners
  • wide-angle camera lenses
  • in the core of optical fiber cables
  • as a catalyst and alloying agent

Scientists are studying the effects of germanium as a chemotherapeutic agent. The element may be used to support the immune system of cancer patients with further testing.

(Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

More from LiveScience
Author Bio
Live Science Logo

Live Science Staff

For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.
Live Science Staff on
Contact LiveScience on Twitter