Gallium is in the A & D Baskets.
It is the year 1875. The small town of Cognac in western France, about 120 kilometers north of Bordeaux, is considered the center of the alcohol production. Fine wines come from here, and a popular brandy made from white wine gave the town its name. In a small private laboratory near the town center the chemist Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran worked under the flickering light of kerosene lamps. The man is totally absorbed in his experiments: He does not hear the clatter of horse-drawn cabs, the cries of people and the loading of wine barrels. He was absorbed in the search of a new element, whose presence he could finally proof in a spectral line after his long efforts: Gallium.
De Boisbaudran rubs his tired eyes: He knows that his name will be engraved in the history of his hometown. The newly discovered element has interesting properties: It melts at 29.76 degrees and contracts thereby – which when combined with indium and tin (Latin: Stannum) leads to an alloy called Galinstan that is often used in thermometers following the ban on mercury. But its main use today is another one: Gallium is now mainly used in semiconductor technology. Silicon semiconductors lose their functionality even at a few gigahertz; on the other hand, their counterparts made of gallium arsenide function even at values of up to 250 GHz. The raw material can be found in many compounds in almost all light-emitting diodes, called LEDs. Gallium is rare.
Only 100 tonnes of raw gallium are produced worldwide, more than half of which comes from China, Germany and Japan. It is found mainly in aluminium, zinc and germanium ores, the concentration is a maximum of 0.01 percent. Noble, good and valuable – gallium has at least these in common with a glass of fine cognac.