Germanium for Electronic Devices

http://search.proquest.com/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/112860011/CEA22C91A6364287PQ/2?accountid=14902”

“Germanium for Electronic Devices”

In this article, the history of germanium extraction is discussed, as well as how it may even be possible to extract the then-expensive metal from things such as wastewater and crops. Some of the important information about this article is confirmation that germanium as it is used was discovered in 1896, but it was only during world war two that scientists put two and two together and began research replacing the fragile and outdated vacuum tube with what would become the transistor.

In the passage, it explains that “twenty freight-car loads of zinc ore rock must be mined and treated to obtain a pound of germanium worth 350$.” [350 dollars in 1953 when this was published is recorded as being the same as 3165 dollars in 2016 dollars, according to data.bls.gov]. Although expensive, 3165 dollars is not actually that much considering how much those twenty freight cars of material would have been worth. This caused an issue early in the mass manufacturing of transistors. Demand for germanium was going to explode out of control (and therefor the price of all of these goods that people were now buying was going to also explode) if the use of germanium kept expanding at a rapid rate.

The main idea that is useful to speak about from this paper is how Dr. Hans Brauchli thought that germanium could be indirectly extracted from vegetation by planting it in places with a high germanium in groundwater content. This is an interesting though because according to his research “all [vegetation] absorb[s] germanium carried in water”. The percent by weight content of germanium was also up to five percent in these trials, a stark contrast to the “one tenth of one per cent … found in the most promising coal veins”.

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