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.
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.
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)