Melting gallium spoon trick provides expensive (but reusable) scientific entertainment

Gallium does not exist elementally in nature, it has to be made. Part of the reason why you cannot just dig the stuff out of the ground is that it has an extremely low melting point (~86°F, 30°C). A hot sunny day reduce a piece of the stuff into a very scary looking puddle.

When put into the fridge, gallium sets an can be molded into different shapes. Take the spoon that you see in the video above. It looks like a spoon, bang it on a table and it sounds like a spoon, but raise the temperature above 30°C (29.9°C to be precise) and it melts in spectacular fashion.

Fortunately, it is safer to handle than mercury. According to the Department of Energy, as long as you don’t drink or inject the stuff you will be fine:

Gallium toxicology was also researched. Gallium metal is insoluble in water; consequently
gallium is not readily absorbed through the skin. Eye contact with, or inhalation of, gallium dust
or powder may cause irritation. Subcutaneous implantation of gallium metal or alloy in guinea
pigs caused necrosis in situ.15 Therefore, care should be exercised to avoid injecting gallium
through the skin (i.e., preclude puncture or incision wounds that leave gallium contamination in
the wound). Gallium has temporary emergency exposure limits (TEELs): TEEL-0 is 10 mg/m3,
TEEL-1 is 30 mg/m3, TEEL-2 is 50 mg/m3, and TEEL-3 is 250 mg/m3. Gallium oxide also has
TEELs; they are the same as for gallium metal, except TEEL-3 is 500 mg/m3.16 Gallium does not
pose any large toxicological hazard in use.

Unfortunately, blowing minds and entertaining people with the low melting point of gallium does not come cheap – if you want enough to build a spoon you will need to part with between $40 and $60 and the spoon mold is not included. [Geekologie]

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C.S. Magor is the editor-in-chief and a reporter at large for We Interrupt and Uberreview. He currently resides in the Japanese countryside approximately two hours from Tokyo - where he has spent the better part of a decade testing his hypothesis that Japan is neither as quirky nor as interesting as others would have you believe.
One Comment
  • mjd
    30 April 2011 at 8:24 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Have you seen the GALLIUM educational video where the guy copies a key then opens a door and also for a car key it is incredible never saw anything like it what else can this wonder element do…here is the video…

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