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Germanium (pronounced /dʒɚˈmeɪniəm/) is a chemical element with the symbol Ge and atomic number 32. This is a lustrous, hard, silver-white metalloid that 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.
Additional recommended knowledge
Germanium is a hard, grayish-white element that has a metallic luster and the same crystal structure as diamond. In addition, it is important to note that germanium is a semiconductor, with electrical properties between those of a metal and an insulator. 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 freezes. The oxide form, Germanium dioxide, also has the unusual property of having a high refractive index for visible light, but transparent to infrared light.
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.
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 fiber 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.
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 stompboxes 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 stompboxes 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:
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.
High purity Germanium crystals are used in detectors for gamma spectroscopy.
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).
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.
Some inorganic germanium compounds include Germane or Germanium tetrahydride (GeH4), Germanium tetrachloride (GeCl4), and Germanium dioxide (germania) (GeO2). Some organic compounds of germanium include tetramethylgermane or tetramethyl germanium, (Ge(CH3)4), and tetraethylgermane or tetraethyl germanium, (Ge(C2H5)4). Recently a new 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, Ge(III) is never found otherwise.
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.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Germanium". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|