Physical Properties of Gallium: Ga
Gallium does not crystallize in any of the simple crystal structures. The stable phase under normal conditions isorthorhombic with 8 atoms in the conventional unit cell. Within a unit cell, each atom has only one nearest neighbor (at a distance of 244 pm). The remaining six unit cell neighbors are spaced 27, 30 and 39 pm farther away, and they are grouped in pairs with the same distance. Many stable and metastable phases are found as function of temperature and pressure.
The bonding between the two nearest neighbors is covalent, hence Ga2 dimers are seen as the fundamental building blocks of the crystal. This explains the drop of the melting point compared to its neighbor elements aluminium and indium.
The physical properties of gallium are highly anisotropic, i.e. have different values along the three major crystallographical axes a, b, and c (see table); for this reason, there is a significant difference between the linear (α) and volume thermal expansion coefficients. The properties of gallium are also strongly temperature-dependent, especially near the melting point. For example, the thermal expansion coefficient increases by several hundred percent upon melting. (x)