Nontoxic metal alloy that is liquid at room temperature


I loved Theo Gray's frozen mercury fish but, as he says, mercury is bad for you. If you want to play with a nontoxic metal that melts at low temperatures, you can buy little bottles of it at Simon Field, the proprietor, sells two kinds.

In the photo above, I am holding two small vials of liquid metal. The vial on the right contains gallium, an element that melts at 29.76° Celsius (85.57° Fahrenheit). The vial on the left is an alloy that contains gallium, indium, and tin, and melts at -20° Celsius (-4° Fahrenheit).
You can do a lot of fun things with these. For instance, you can put a drop of gallium on a sheet of aluminum foil and it will combine with the aluminum, dissolving a hole in it. Nontoxic metal alloy that is liquid at room temperature


  1. It also makes a very attractive coolant. It also can be moved around by magnetic fields. Too bad it’s corrosive property and price make it very tricky to implement.

  2. I wish weight was given, so I can shop around, maybe I want to spend less than 50-60 dollars just to experiment with.

  3. If this eats aluminum, I am sure it is absolutely prohibited to bring this on any aircraft. For the same reason it is not generally allowed to bring mercury based thermometers onto aircraft.

    So beware: don’t order this by air mail. You might get in trouble. ;)

  4. I’ve played with gallium before. Super fun stuff.

    They use it in a lab around where I work to simulate the flow of molten iron in the earth’s core. Along with giant electro-magnets and sheets of lasers, of course…

  5. Well, since both of them are injected for nuclear medicine scans, the non-toxicity has millions of case studies to back it up.

  6. Nice! I remember playing with mercury a couple times as a kid, and have been saddened that, for entirely understandable reasons, kids today wouldn’t be able to do the same. It really changes your perceptions of what it means for something to be liquid (and yet not wetting) and metal (and yet not solid). Even challenging preconceptions about the relationship between density and solidity. So I’m really happy this stuff exists.

  7. Gallinstan is great, but it’s pricey compared to mercury and (and this is its biggest failing): it wets glass. Mercury does not. So you can’t have a gallinstan thermometer, for example, because surface tension will cause the metal to spread all over the interior of the glass tube.

  8. Freaky City, gallium is about 6 grams per cubic centimeter. The vial looks to be about 1 cc, depending on the size of Joel’s fingers, so 5 or 6 cc would be my guess.

    United Nuclear has it 5 grams for $50, 1 gram for $15.

    They caution not to store it in glass or metal containers. Besides the corrosive properties, it expands more than 3% when it solidifies, and could shatter the container.

  9. Could it work if you used plastic or siliconized glass to make the thermometer out of? I guess the cost would still make it prohibitive with digital thermometers having gotten so good and so cheap the last few years.

  10. Gallium is thought to interfere with osteoclast function[1].

    As gallium maltolate it is only in clinical and preclinical trials as a potential* treatment for cancer, infectious disease, and inflammatory disease [2].

    Just because it; could be? Keep in mind there is no known biochemical detoxification pathways either. With known tendencies to substitute Iron in its binding form?

    So, Still going to drink it sweetheart?

    Dr. J

  11. Is this a room-temperature-metals Blog Post Battle?

    Wow Mark, you should hear the stuff Xeni is saying about you in the other thread..

  12. I used reagent grade gallium as a means of attaching electrodes to large (4mm) single Zinc Sulfide crystals.Indium solder wouldn’t wet to the crystals and butyl nitrate based silver electrodes would just peel off. I was advised that gallium was toxic so I didn’t play around with it outside of my experiment.I was always of the opinion that very few metals were truly nontoxic and that their oxide coats offered us some protection.

  13. How reactive is this stuff on Aluminum? Are we talking “cola on a human tooth” corrosion or “facehugger blood on a spaceship bulkhead” corrosion?

  14. NaK is also liquid at room temperature, and isnt really toxic. A bit caustic though, and a tad reactive.

  15. I have a hard time justifying “isn’t really toxic” relative to a material that catches on fire on exposure to water.

    Yes, ok, NaK is not a biological toxin. But neither is Phosphorous or Calcium (both key minerals!) – but I don’t recommend eating the metallic form of either.

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