Recover Used Gallium From Aluminum


Warning: Sodium hydroxide is corrosive. Wear gloves when handling it. This reaction also produces large amounts of hydrogen gas. Work outside or in a fume hood. Greetings fellow nerds. In previous videos, you’ve seen me destroy aluminum objects with gallium. What’s left over is weakened aluminum that has small amounts of gallium embedded in it. By your request, in this video we’re going to try and recover some of that gallium. Now the most common suggestion was to react the alloy with water. This is not a bad idea actually, as gallium aluminum alloy is well known for being reactive with water. The problem with using the aluminum from our earlier experiments is that while they do have gallium in them, it’s not enough. The alloy allows some attack but the aluminum oxide layer just grows thicker. Even with heating the reaction eventually stops. We need to increase the gallium content of our gallium aluminum alloy to start the process going. I’m not going to add extra gallium though because gallium is expensive and i don’t want to risk wasting it. So instead we’re going to go in the opposite direction and force the destruction of some of the aluminum by reacting it with sodium hydroxide. First we get some gallium infused aluminum. In this case we have about 27 grams. And to this i’m adding about 300mL of water. Now in small portions we add a stoichiometric equivalent of sodium hydroxide. So i’m adding a total of 40g. Sodium hydroxide is highly corrosive to aluminum and it dissolves the aluminum oxide layers to form sodium aluminate. This allows the aluminum underneath to be attacked and also forms hydrogen gas. Gallium metal also gets attacked by sodium hydroxide but that reaction is much slower. So for now the destruction of aluminum is the dominant reaction. As more and more of the aluminum is consumed, the alloy should liquify as gallium becomes the dominant component. There is still a lot of aluminum in it but the alloy will then pool into the bottom of the container. It’s important not to let the reaction get too hot or the gallium will be consumed as well. Slow down the addition of sodium hydroxide if the self-boiling becomes excessive. In previous runs the reaction ran out of control and overflowed. So do pay attention. You can even drop in ice cubes if it gets too hot too quickly. Eventually, as the sodium aluminate and undissolved aluminum oxide particles build up, the reaction will slow down to a crawl. This takes about an hour. If the metal still hasn’t liquified by now then there is too much aluminum and you should refresh the reaction by pouring off the excess solution and adding more water and equivalent sodium hydroxide. Maybe also add in more gallium infused aluminum if it’s available. Mine seems to have liquified just fine so i’m going to let it cool down until it solidifies. Now pour off the solution and in the bottom we’ll have gallium metal. This is very impure as there is still a significant amount of aluminum alloyed with it. But now that the gallium concentration is high enough, we can purify it with water. Get about 300mL of water or so and add in the gallium metal. Now heat it up until it’s near boiling, about 80 celsius or so. We want to melt the gallium and react away any aluminum. This method is safer than using sodium hydroxide since gallium reacts incredibly slowly with water. So this is a good way of separating it without losing the gallium. We couldn’t use this earlier since the aluminum content was too high and the alloy couldn’t melt. Now that the sodium hydroxide consumed most of the aluminum, the alloy can melt and we can use water to destroy the last bit of aluminum. Keep heating until the gallium stops bubbling. Now turn off the heating and let it cool and solidify. And here is the gallium piece. For amateur uses this is sufficient and will behave like pure gallium for most purposes. Although it is a bit dirty with embedded aluminum oxide bits. If you want to clean it up a bit more, you can get a 20% solution of sulfuric acid. Heating it up and adding the gallium so it liquifies. The acid reacts with the oxides and helps clean up the gallium. The drawback of this method is that it consumes a small amount of the gallium as well so it shouldn’t be used for primary purification, just as a means of cleaning up the gallium. Anyway once the gallium is completely molten, shake it a few times to knock off the impurities. Once that’s cleaned, quickly dunk the container in ice water to cool it and resolidify the gallium. Once its solid pull it out and give it a wash. And there we have it. A hunk of gallium metal recovered from gallium aluminum alloy. Now granted this isn’t perfect, a significant quantity of gallium is still in the solution from before and requires advanced solvent extraction to recover. In some cases, this crude method couldn’t retrieve any gallium at all. The droplets of gallium were too small. But this method is simple to perform for the amateur and just requires some sodium hydroxide and water. I’ll try and test the advanced methods in a future video. Thanks for watching. Special thank you to all of my supporters on patreon for making these science videos possible with their donations and their direction. If you are not currently a patron, but like to support the continued production of science videos like this one, then check out my patreon page here or in the video description. I really appreciate any and all support.

69 thoughts on “Recover Used Gallium From Aluminum

  1. Some updates: Pyrimethamine has been delayed for the stupidest reason: Post office didn't deliver the samples to the testing lab for analysis. So until that's done i can't go forward.

    I tried to make oxalyl chloride to make glow sticks, but that failed miserably.

    I might salvage the video by showing how i made anhydrous oxalic acid. It's was one of steps to making oxalyl chloride.

    Currently working on making potassium chlorate. The actual experiment itself is easy, but making it into a video is hard. Balancing explaining the reactions and the science with the practicability and not making you bored out of your mind has been challenging. I'll probably split it into 2 videos with the practical side in one video, and the advanced science in another… or not. Still working on it.

    On a different note, i'll probably disappear off the face of the planet for a month when Mass Effect Andromeda comes out so i'll try and squeeze out at least one more video before then.

  2. Al+NaOH brings me childhood memories. It's a fun method for backyard hydrogen production, I used to literally play with that. (Flying balloons going kaboom.)

  3. Does this mean we might see another gallium infused bat video, this time where you just swing it at something solid? Or is it still too risky wallet-wise (or time-wise) for you to do?

  4. Great video, although you really need to work on speaking a little more clearly. You seem to do weird things like when you say "sodium hydroxide" it sounds more like "some hydroxide".

  5. Are you sure that a significant amount of gallium would remain in solution? In my mind, the aluminum metal remaining after the digestion in lye should easily reduce any gallium remaining in the solution back to metal.

  6. I want to ask: if kept molten for long enough, could indium metal have the same effect on aluminium as gallium does?

  7. I killed a meter long snake that had come into my room on the second floor while watching this video. Now there's a dead meter long snake in my trashcan. I really hope that was the only one. Had to share.

  8. Amazing, just two days ago I made gallium-aluminum alloy and have been trying to recover the gallium ever since then. I tried the sodium hydroxide method (granted, with oven cleaner instead of pure sodium hydroxide), and it seemed to work. I'll try the boiling water method to get it as pure as possible. I don't have sulfuric acid to get rid of the oxides, but the gallium in this state is sufficient. Thanks 😀

  9. Shouldn't Aluminium produce sodium tetrahydroxoaluminate (Na[Al(OH)4]) when reacting with sodium hydroxide in solution?

  10. Yeah, that thought crossed my mind; What percentage of total Gallium was dissolved in the Sodium Hydroxide solution?

  11. NurdRage. For a while now I was planning to make a biosynthesis of penicillin, and obtain it in a crystalline form. I've read a ton of information, but I am still not certainly sure if I can make it. It seems to be quite a complicated process that totally requires more than an amateur chemist knowledge. In any case, I am planning to conduct this experiment in the near future, but I am afraid my chances for success would be 50/50 or even less. It would be pretty disappointing to end up with nothing after so much work and research. Have you ever considered making penicillin? I believe, for a person of your knowledge, it would not be a big challenge. I am just surprised that no one yet has done it on youtube knowing how important this compound for humanity.

  12. I am only twelve and I don't understand very many things you do but I think what you do is cool.
    Great content keep going.

  13. NurdRage, did you also try stirring the gallium aluminum mixture while heating it to make it react better?

  14. I kind of smile every time at the warnings at the beginning. Nurdrage: "NaOH is very bad you must absolutely be careful" Cody: "Let's dump a bunch of Caesium into a lake" 😀

  15. NurdRage, thank you so much. I plan on putting some gallium on an aluminum engine and running it to see if it crumbles away. I didn't want to improperly dispose of the aluminum/gallium end result.

  16. I'd love to see an aluminum pressure vessel fail because of gallium. Like, a pressurized, aluminum dive tank. Put the gallium on it, then leave it somewhere safe with a camera

  17. What was the percentage of gallium obtained in the end relative to how much you started with? Basically, a bit like percentage yield.

  18. So technically you lost some aluminum and galium in the process? Im really dumb in chemistry… but if you don't lost any Aluminum or galium you can make that for hidrogen font?

  19. I know nothing about chemistry, I have no idea what vdo I watched the first time, but I subscribed and I haven't regretted it since. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  20. I've been waiting for a video like this one so I can justify spending the money on gallium for my home lab ^.^ Thank you NurdRage!! I'm so glad you're back

  21. Hello Colleague, have some a reliable supplier to platinum electrodes? Sorry for the question but with "FAKE platinum… is impossible to ask. Thanks….:-) Dr.

  22. Hey @Nurdrage back when you were trying to make a tritium nuclear battery, this article could have been useful for you https://technology.nasa.gov/public_domain/NPO-30323-1 instead of a betavoltaic cell they have release the patent for a alphavoltaic cell.

  23. Hi Nurdrage!

    Do you have any special methods of storing gallium? I have some gallium stored in a regular plastic container, but I've noticed it has turned black over time.

    I know you mentioned that gallium-aluminum alloy reacts (albeit slowly) with water, but does this mean un-alloyed gallium react also reacts with water or oxygen?

    Thanks in advance!

  24. Your person opinion of the practicality of this material as a potential fuel source? How much gallium is wasted? How much is recovered? How much gallium & aluminium is required for a significant amount of reaction to power a car or other vehicle? I read several sources claiming the potential for this reaction as fuel source but my "2nd law of thermodynamics" alarm goes off! 😆

  25. Can someone explain why the reaction needs more gallium when gallium is a catalyst in the formation of aluminum hydroxide? I was under the impression that the catalysis mechanism was gallium dissolving the aluminum hydroxide layer so it couldn't produce the passivation layer it normally does. If a reaction needs more catalyst to complete, doesn't that make it…. not a catalyst?

  26. How can i separate amalgam of Mercury and Sodium? Pls help i need you answer! Should i distill it or is there any chemical way??

  27. How to recover aluminium from soldium hydroxide and water reaction? Is there any reversing method?

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