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germanium chloride is a volatile liquid with a peculiar acidic odor. It is used as an intermediate in the production of purified germanium metal, and as a dopant for optical fiber production. It is also a raw material for semiconductor production. It is typically oxidized with chlorine to produce the corresponding germanium tetrachloride (GeCl4), but a chlorine free activation method has been developed as a less energy intensive alternative synthesis.
It reacts with many metal halides to form mixed germanium halide compounds, including the divalent cations GeCl3 and GeCl2. It also reacts with antimony trifluoride, SbF3, to form GeCl3F and GeClF2. germanium chloride is soluble in water, but it reacts violently with steam to generate toxic and corrosive hydrogen chloride fumes. It is a skin, severe eye, and mucous membrane irritant; causes lachrymation and burns on contact; and has been known to cause respiratory irritation. It has been shown to induce kidney damage in animal studies, and may be carcinogenic. It is a suspected human carcinogen by the IARC.
germanium chloride is an excellent solvent for the preparation of the methyl silanes, dichloromethylsilane (CH3SiHCl2) and monomethyldichlorosilane (CH4Cl2). It also reacts with nitrous oxide, NO, in water to form the dioxygen dioxide molecule, O2, which can be further reacted with hydrogen peroxide to form hydroxyl radicals. This makes it useful in the synthesis of polymers, polyethylene glycol, and other organic materials. The hydroxyl radicals are also important in photochemical reactions.