Element 32 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is germanium. Found in some camera lenses and guitar effects pedals, it’s also present in some LCD TVs.

Germanium oxide has a high index of refraction, meaning light travels through it more slowly. This gives it applications in wide angle lenses for cameras and microscope lenses. It’s also used in the core parts of optical fibres.

Germanium was quite commonly used in electronic components in the 1950s and 60s, but in most applications gave way to silicon components. However, it’s still found in classic guitar effects pedals. Germanium diodes lend smoothness to distortion pedals, while germanium transistors give a characteristic fuzzy effect.

Finally, germanium also finds use combined with other elements in some high-brightness LED lights. Some car headlights and backlit LCD displays use these LEDs.

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.