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What are Gallium and Germanium, how China restrictions could impact tech companies

The escalating technology rivalry between the United States and China is intensifying. Recently, the US revealed plans to restrict the export of certain chips used in generative AI, and now China is reportedly imposing export restrictions on two metals – Gallium and Germanium – which could adversely affect US tech companies. This article aims to explain the significance of these metals and their usage in the tech industry.

Gallium is a soft, silvery metal with a low melting point slightly above room temperature. It plays a crucial role in the production of gallium arsenide (GaAs) semiconductors, which are used in high-frequency devices such as microwave amplifiers, solar cells, and LEDs. Gallium is also utilized in power electronics, radio frequency amplifiers, and LED lighting, offering superior efficiency and power capabilities compared to traditional silicon-based devices.

On the other hand, Germanium is employed for transmitting infrared light, making it valuable in infrared optics and lenses for thermal imaging cameras and night vision devices. It is also used as a dopant in the core of optical fibers to enhance their light-carrying capacity in fiber optic communication systems.

While both gallium and germanium have significant applications in the tech industry, gallium, particularly in the form of gallium arsenide, holds a more prominent position in the semiconductor industry for high-frequency and power devices.

China has announced restrictions on the export of these metals, effective from August 1st. Exporters will be required to obtain a license and provide details about the importers, end users, and specific usage of these metals. China is the world’s largest exporter of gallium and germanium, and tech companies worldwide heavily rely on them for various material processing.

This move from China is seen as a warning to other countries amidst the escalating trade wars. Over the years, trade tensions between the US and China have intensified, leading to restrictions on Chinese companies exporting products to the US.

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