Germanium is a metalloid that has a shiny, grey white, appearance in its natural solid state. It has electrical properties, is crystalline in its natural state, and expands when it freezes. Germanium has an atomic weight of 72.64, a melting point of 1720.85 °F, and a boiling point of 5131 °F. Some common uses of germanium include: as a component in transistor elements, as a semiconductor, as a component in florescent lamps, as a chemical catalyst, and in use for detection of gamma radiation.
Germanium is found in nature in the form of various ores and compounds; isolation procedures used to isolate germanium are used on large scale industrial purposes.
Germanium occurs in nature in the form of argyrodite, a sulfide of silver and germanium, coal, germanite, and zinc ores. Commercial isolation of germanium occurs generally from zinc ore smelter dust processing and from the combustion of byproducts from certain types of coals. The combustion process uses exothermic chemical reactions along with heat and light.
There are two processes that can be used to further isolate germanium: treatment with hydrogen, and treatment with carbon. The germanium oxide, GeO2, can be reacted on a one to two basis with carbon, or hydrogen, to produce pure germanium and carbon monoxide or water.
Very pure germanium can also be isolated by treating germanium chloride with hydrogen; this reaction yields pure germanium and hydrochloride; this process uses fractional distillation and the highly reactive and volatile germanium tetrachloride. Fractional distillation uses the different volatile properties of germanium contaminants to yield the high quality amounts of fractional distillation. These isolation procedures are usually not carried out on a small scale laboratory basis.
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