2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Chemical elements

32 galliumgermaniumarsenic


Periodic Table - Extended Periodic Table
Name, Symbol, Number germanium, Ge, 32
Chemical series metalloids
Group, Period, Block 14, 4, p
Appearance grayish white
Standard atomic weight 72.64 (1)  g·mol−1
Electron configuration [Ar] 3d10 4s2 4p2
Electrons per shell 2, 8, 18, 4
Physical properties
Phase solid
Density (near r.t.) 5.323  g·cm−3
Liquid density at m.p. 5.60  g·cm−3
Melting point 1211.40  K
(938.25 ° C, 1720.85 ° F)
Boiling point 3106  K
(2833 ° C, 5131 ° F)
Heat of fusion 36.94   kJ·mol−1
Heat of vaporization 334   kJ·mol−1
Specific heat capacity (25 °C) 23.222  J·mol−1·K−1
Vapor pressure
P(Pa) 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T(K) 1644 1814 2023 2287 2633 3104
Atomic properties
Crystal structure Face-centered cubic
Oxidation states 4, 2,
( amphoteric oxide)
Electronegativity 2.01 (Pauling scale)
Ionization energies
( more)
1st:  762   kJ·mol−1
2nd:  1537.5  kJ·mol−1
3rd:  3302.1  kJ·mol−1
Atomic radius 125   pm
Atomic radius (calc.) 125  pm
Covalent radius 122  pm
Magnetic ordering Diamagnetic
Thermal conductivity (300 K) 60.2  W·m−1·K−1
Thermal expansion (25 °C) 6.0  µm·m−1·K−1
Speed of sound (thin rod) (20 °C) 5400 m/s
Mohs hardness 6.0
CAS registry number 7440-56-4
Selected isotopes
Main article: Isotopes of germanium
iso NA half-life DM DE ( MeV) DP
68Ge syn 270.8 d ε - 68Ga
70Ge 21.23% 70Ge is stable with 38 neutrons
71Ge syn 11.26 d ε - 71Ga
72Ge 27.66% 72Ge is stable with 40 neutrons
73Ge 7.73% 73Ge is stable with 41 neutrons
74Ge 35.94% 74Ge is stable with 42 neutrons
76Ge 7.44% 1.78×1021 y β-β- - 76Se

Germanium (pronounced /dʒɚˈmeɪniəm/) is a chemical element with the symbol Ge and atomic number 32. This lustrous, hard, silver-white metalloid is chemically similar to tin. Germanium forms a large number of organometallic compounds and is an important semiconductor material used in transistors. It is named after the country of Germany.

Notable characteristics

Germanium is a hard, grayish-white element that has a metallic luster and the same crystal structure as diamond. Germanium is a semiconductor. In its pure state, this metalloid is crystalline, brittle and retains its lustre in air at room temperature. Zone refining techniques have led to the production of crystalline germanium for semiconductors that have an impurity of only one part in 1010. Along with gallium, bismuth, antimony and water, it is one of the few substances that expands as it solidifies (i.e. freezes) from its molten state. Germanium releases high energy electrons if bombarded with alpha particles and is used in combination with radon for the nuclear batteries patented by Bruce Perreault.


In 1871, germanium (Latin Germania for Germany) was one of the elements that Dmitri Mendeleev predicted to exist as a missing analogue of the silicon group (Mendeleev called it " ekasilicon"). The existence of this element was proven by Clemens Winkler in 1886. This discovery was an important confirmation of Mendeleev's idea of element periodicity.

Property Ekasilicon Germanium
atomic mass (amu) 72 72.64
density (g/cm³) 5.5 5.35
melting point (°C) high 947
colour grey grey

The development of the germanium transistor opened the door to countless applications of solid state electronics. From 1950 through the early 1970s, this area provided an increasing market for germanium, but then high purity silicon began replacing germanium in transistors, diodes, and rectifiers. Silicon has superior electrical properties, but requires much higher purity samples—a purity which could not be commercially achieved in the early days. Meanwhile, demand for germanium in fibre optics communication networks, infrared night vision systems, and polymerization catalysts increased dramatically. These end uses represented 85% of worldwide germanium consumption for 2000 Germanium differs from silicon in that the supply of silicon is limited by production capacity only while that for germanium is limited by the shortage of exploitable sources.


One of the leading uses for germanium is as a replacement for silica in the stationary phase in chromatography. GeO2 is a isostructural analogue of SiO2 and is compatible with the silica network present in the silica stationary phase.

Unlike most semiconductors, germanium has a small band gap, allowing it to efficiently respond to infrared light. It is therefore used in infrared spectroscopes and other optical equipment which require extremely sensitive infrared detectors. Its oxide's index of refraction and dispersion properties make germanium useful in wide-angle camera lenses and in microscope objective lenses.

Germanium transistors are still used in some effects pedals by musicians who wish to reproduce the distinctive tonal character of the "fuzz"-tone from the early rock and roll era, most notably the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face. Vintage effects pedals known to contain germanium transistors have shown marked increases in collector value for this reason alone.

Germanium is a highly important infra-red optical material and can be readily cut and polished into lenses and windows. It is used particularly as the front optic in thermal imaging cameras working in the 8 to 14 micron wavelength range for passive thermal imaging and for hot-spot detection in military and fire fighting applications. The material has a very high refractive index (4.0) and so needs to be anti-reflection coated. Particularly, a very hard special antireflection coating of diamond-like carbon (DLC), refractive index 2.0, is a good match and produces a diamond-hard surface that can withstand much environmental rough treatment.

The alloy silicon germanide (commonly referred to as "silicon-germanium", or SiGe) is rapidly becoming an important semiconductor material, for use in high speed integrated circuits. Circuits utilising the properties of Si-SiGe junctions can be much faster than those using silicon alone.

Other uses:

  • Alloying agent (see below)
  • Phosphor in fluorescent lamps
  • High purity germanium single crystal detectors can precisely identify radiation sources, e.g., for airport security
  • Germanium substrate wafers for high-efficiency multi-junction solar cells for space applications

Certain compounds of germanium have low toxicity to mammals, but have toxic effects against certain bacteria. This property makes these compounds useful as chemotherapeutic agents.

Germanium is useful for single crystal neutron or synchrotron X-ray monochromator for beamlines. The reflectivity has advantages over silicon in neutron and High energy X-ray applications.

Crystals of high purity germanium are used in detectors for gamma spectroscopy and the search for dark matter.

In recent years germanium has seen increasing use in precious metal alloys. In sterling silver alloys, for instance, it has been found to reduce firescale, increase tarnish resistance, and increase the alloy's response to precipitation hardening (see Argentium sterling silver).


This element is found in argyrodite ( sulfide of germanium and silver); coal; germanite; zinc ores; and other minerals. See also Category:Germanium minerals

Germanium is obtained commercially from zinc ore processing smelter dust and from the combustion by-products of certain coals. A large reserve of this element is therefore in coal sources.

This metalloid can be extracted from other metals by fractional distillation of its volatile tetrachloride. This technique permits the production of ultra-high purity germanium.


In 1998 the cost of germanium was about US$1.70 per gram. The year-end price for zone-refined germanium has (generally) decreased since then:

1999.....$1,400 per kilogram (or $1.40 per gram)
2000.....$1,250 per kilogram (or $1.25 per gram)
2001.....$890 per kilogram (or $0.89 per gram)
2002.....$620 per kilogram (or $0.62 per gram)
2003.....$380 per kilogram (or $0.38 per gram)
2004.....$600 per kilogram (or $0.60 per gram)
2005.....$660 per kilogram (or $0.66 per gram)
2006.....$880 per kilogram (or $0.88 per gram)
2007.....$1240 per kilogram (or $1.24 per gram)


Some inorganic germanium compounds include Germanium tetrahydride (GeH4), germanium tetrachloride (GeCl4), and Germanium dioxide (germania) (GeO2). The dioxide exhibts the unusual property of having a high refractive index for visible light, but transparent to infrared light. Some organic compounds of germanium include tetramethylgermane (Ge(CH3)4) and tetraethylgermane (Ge(C2H5)4). The organogermanium compound isobutylgermane ((CH3)2CHCH2GeH3), was reported as the less hazardous liquid substitute for toxic germane gas in semiconductor applications. Germanium also occurs in the III oxidation state, but only in the Ge26+ cation.

See also
  • Category:Germanium compounds
  • Germane
  • Germanide


Pure germanium is known to spontaneously extrude very long screw dislocations, referred to as germanium whiskers. The growth of these whiskers is one of the primary reasons for the failure of older diodes and transistors made from germanium, as, depending on what they end up touching, they may lead to an electrical short. FDA research has concluded that germanium, when used as a nutritional supplement, "presents potential human health hazard".

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