National Minerals Information Center

Germanium Statistics and Information

Germanium is mainly a byproduct of zinc ore processing.  It is a hard, grayish-white element; it has a metallic luster and the same crystal structure as diamond; and it is brittle, like glass.  In addition, it is important to note that germanium is a semiconductor, with electrical properties between those of a metal and an insulator.  The development of the germanium transistor opened the door to countless applications of solid-state electronics.  From 1950 through the early 1970's, this area provided an increasing market for germanium, but then high purity silicon began replacing germanium in transistors, diodes, and rectifiers.   Meanwhile, demand for germanium in fiber optics communication networks, infrared night vision systems, and polymerization catalysts increased dramatically.  These end uses represented 85% of worldwide germanium consumption for 2000.  World germanium consumption has been greater than primary production in recent years, but releases of germanium from government stockpiles and increased recycling have provided adequate supply.  The yearend price for germanium in 2000 was $1,150 per kilogram.

 

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Amy Tolcin

Supervisory Mineral Commodity Specialist
National Minerals Information Center
Phone: 703-648-4940