AskDefine | Define germanium

Dictionary Definition

germanium n : a brittle gray crystalline element that is a semiconducting metalloid (resembling silicon) used in transistors; occurs in germanite and argyrodite [syn: Ge, atomic number 32]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. a nonmetallic chemical element (symbol Ge) with an atomic number of 32.


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For etymology and more information refer to: (A lot of the translations were taken from that site with permission from the author)



  1. germanium

Extensive Definition

confuse geranium Germanium () 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 silicon, 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
boiling point (°C) high 947
color 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 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 only limited by production capacity, 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 an 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).


In 1998 the cost of germanium was about US$1.70 per gram. The year-end price for zone-refined germanium had (generally) decreased since then until 2005 when prices began to increase.:
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.


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".

External links

germanium in Afrikaans: Germanium
germanium in Arabic: جرمانيوم
germanium in Bengali: জার্মেনিয়াম
germanium in Belarusian: Германій
germanium in Bosnian: Germanijum
germanium in Bulgarian: Германий
germanium in Catalan: Germani
germanium in Czech: Germanium
germanium in Corsican: Germaniu
germanium in Welsh: Germaniwm
germanium in Danish: Germanium
germanium in German: Germanium
germanium in Estonian: Germaanium
germanium in Modern Greek (1453-): Γερμάνιο
germanium in Spanish: Germanio
germanium in Esperanto: Germaniumo
germanium in Basque: Germanio
germanium in Persian: ژرمانیوم
germanium in French: Germanium
germanium in Friulian: Gjermani
germanium in Irish: Gearmáiniam
germanium in Manx: Germaanium
germanium in Galician: Xermanio
germanium in Korean: 저마늄
germanium in Armenian: Գերմանիում
germanium in Hindi: जर्मेनियम
germanium in Croatian: Germanij
germanium in Ido: Germanio
germanium in Indonesian: Germanium
germanium in Icelandic: German
germanium in Italian: Germanio
germanium in Hebrew: גרמניום
germanium in Javanese: Germanium
germanium in Swahili (macrolanguage): Gerimani
germanium in Haitian: Jèmanyòm
germanium in Kurdish: Germanyûm
germanium in Latin: Germanium
germanium in Latvian: Germānijs
germanium in Luxembourgish: Germanium
germanium in Lithuanian: Germanis
germanium in Lojban: dotyjinme
germanium in Hungarian: Germánium
germanium in Malay (macrolanguage): Germanium
germanium in Dutch: Germanium
germanium in Japanese: ゲルマニウム
germanium in Norwegian: Germanium
germanium in Norwegian Nynorsk: Germanium
germanium in Occitan (post 1500): Germani
germanium in Uzbek: Germaniy
germanium in Low German: Germanium
germanium in Polish: German
germanium in Portuguese: Germânio
germanium in Romanian: Germaniu
germanium in Quechua: Germanyu
germanium in Russian: Германий
germanium in Sicilian: Girmaniu
germanium in Simple English: Germanium
germanium in Slovak: Germánium
germanium in Slovenian: Germanij
germanium in Serbian: Германијум
germanium in Serbo-Croatian: Germanijum
germanium in Finnish: Germanium
germanium in Swedish: Germanium
germanium in Tamil: ஜேர்மானியம்
germanium in Thai: เจอร์เมเนียม
germanium in Vietnamese: Gecmani
germanium in Turkish: Germanyum
germanium in Ukrainian: Германій
germanium in Urdu: جرمانیئم
germanium in Chinese: 锗
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