An Overview about the Chemical Element Germanium

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Symbol: Ge

Atomic Number: 32

Atomic Mass: 72.61 amu (atomic mass units)

Melting Point: 937.4°C (1210.55 K, 1719.3201°F)

Boiling Point: 2830.0°C (3103.15 K, 5126.0°F)

Number of Protons: 32

Number of Electrons: 32

Number of Neutrons: 41

Classification: Metalloid

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 5.323 grams per cubic centimeter

Color: Gray

In 1871, Dmitri Mendeleev, the man who devised the periodic table, hypothesized the existence of an element he called eka-silicon with the symbol Es. This element was required to fill the gap in the table at element number 32. From his knowledge of the table and the behavior of the elements within he also assigned some possible chemical attributes to this unknown element.

In 1886, the German chemist Clemens Winkler discovered a new element from his examination of the mineral argyrodite. This element had the atomic number 32 and its chemical properties bore a remarkable similarity to that proposed by Mendeleev for eka-silicon. However the name eka-silicon was not used for this element instead it was called germanium from the Latin "Germania" meaning Germany.

Germanium has five naturally occurring isotopes the most common of which is germanium-74. Four of the naturally occurring isotopes are stable while the fifth germanium-76 has an extremely long half-life. There are also over thirty man-made isotopes of the element with half lives ranging from about 150 nanoseconds to 270.8 days.

Metalloids such as germanium are elements, which share properties of both metals and non-metals. Germanium like one of the other metalloids, silicon, is a semi-conductor which means it can conduct electricity under certain conditions

The main industrial sources for this element today are as a byproduct from the smelting of zinc ores and the burning of some types of coal.

Germanium has a number of industrial uses but its main use is as a semiconductor. The element is doped with a small amount of different elements to make transistors. The elements used for this doping are arsenic, gallium, indium, antimony or phosphorus. It is also used in the production of a number of alloys. Germanium is often used as a phosphor in fluorescent lamps.

Germanium and germanium oxide have been found to be transparent to infra red light. This property has found a use for the element in infra red detectors and other infra red optical devices. Other optical uses for the element are within wide angle camera lenses and the objective lenses used in microscopes. It is also used in gamma ray detectors.

Although is has no essential biological role germanium is believed to stimulate metabolism in small doses, Some germanium compounds appear to have an antibacterial action and they are being investigated as possible chemotherapeutic agents.

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