Science

The metal gallium has a low melting point (29.78 °C, according to the material safety data sheet), so a spoon made of it will melt when used to stir a hot beverage. [via Gizmodo]

46 thoughts on “Gallium spoon makes for fun teatime prank

  1. Ok – sorry to be the party spoiler here – but I have worked with Ga for close to 20 years in LMIS Ion sources. Gallium is a corrosive and a heavy metal. Read the MSDS: HMIS Health class 3, Shipping hazard class 8 (corrosive). It will corrode aluminum on contact.
    I suggest if you are looking for a Madame Curie moment there are several other elements in the periodic table worth trying too (Hg, Pb, As, Ra?). Just please, don’t breed first.

    That being said, this video is very very cool. I cant wait to show it to some of my colleagues and especially my Interns. Thx!

  2. According to the MSDS gallium can cause “skin rashes and depression of bone marrow function as well as anorexia, nausea and vomiting.” I’ll pass on handling it. I’d be very careful doing this around children who might ingest it.

  3. No… Gallium spoon does not make for fun teatime prank. God forbid anyone looks at the health effects listed in the very same MSDS you tout. The stuff is not meant to be played with. Its why chemistry teachers aren’t allowed to handle it in high school lab experiments anymore.

  4. Read the MSDS for Sodium Chloride (table salt!!) You’ll find that causes cancer in animal tests, it’s a skin irritant, when ingested, medical advice should be sought immediately, Reactive with all kinds of metals and oxidizing agents, slightly hazardous in case of skin contact, and a special remark due to adverse effects on human reproductive organs and the list goes on. We’re talking about table salt guys:P They make it sound that table salt is more toxic than gallium.

    1. Well i must be an idiot because alot of that is missing from my salt MSDS.
      I dont understand what your point is, if you are seriously trying to suggest that salt is more harmfull because your datasheet says so.
      If you do the maths it takes a hefty dose of salt to cause serious damage.
      I guess you have never heard of drowning then?

    2. I’m calling shenanigans. This sounds like one of those myths that shows up in anti-environmental-safety propaganda. The actual MSDS for NaCl does not say that it causes cancer, and even stipulates that it’s not listed as a carcinogen by the State of California (while just about everything else is). Also, in the sections that call for seeking medical advice, it’s exclusively in the context of “if irritation occurs,” and never includes the word “immediately.” In other words, the MSDS for salt is perfectly sensible, as is the much more strongly worded MSDS for gallium.

      And, by the way, an overdose of sodium chloride will indeed kill you. Millions of Americans replicate that experiment every year.

  5. Check the MSDS for table salt (sodium chlorine), its even listed as carcinogenic, and skin contact should be avoided. I suppose if water would not be common, they’d come up with nasty side effects as well.

    1. you, my dear friend, are trying to run for a Darwin-award, are you? they used to put quicksilver in thermometers, so what’s all the fuzz about it being toxic. I’d reckon you’d just put some of the good ol’ Hg in someone’s cup as a joke as well

  6. Gallium is an ore of lead. Don’t do this where there’s any chance of someone ingesting this metal. Funny for the look n their face? perhaps, until they realize the “spoon” was a toxic metal…

    1. It’s easy enough to buy. So is chlorine. I know it’s not your point, but some people do seem to think that means it’s “safe” or some junk. Pity that, it’s why everything has to come with “warning labels” these days – ‘cuz everyone assumes they’re being babied. :- No warning = no danger. NOT.

  7. haha i can imagine the look on their face when they see the spoon melting. BE SURE NOT TO LET THEM DRINK IT AFTERWARDS! it might be a good idea to boil the cup as well to clean it.

  8. Gallium is just a metal. It’s a fun trick, but obviously not something you’d give to anyone who might actually ingest it. For a science class it’s a great demonstration. The only thing I would change, is to wear gloves when handling the metal. Body temperature is high enough to melt it (Gallium is the original melt in your hand metal), and it may have some ability to absorb through skin. MSDSs don’t all agree on it’s health rating, with some listing it as a 1 or a 2 (on the 0-4 scale of 0 being benign and 4 being death to all who come near). It’s not a major health hazard, but a valuable science demonstration lesson here is to always wear gloves! By the way, sodium fluoride, which is in your toothpaste, has a health rating of 3, which is considered poison. All things can be dangerous or safe depending on how they’re handled and used.

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