Mer­cury is a heavy, sil­very and an extremely tox­ic met­al. One of the most popular fea­tures the mer­cury is the in nor­mal con­di­tions this met­al is liq­uid and only freezes at –38.8°C! In na­ture over there are just two el­e­ments that space liq­uid in nor­mal con­di­tions – mer­cury and bromine.

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In the earth crust, mer­cury is a really rare el­e­ment, however rocks in i m sorry mer­cury is found usu­al­ly con­tain that in quite high con­cen­tra­tions. This is be­cause mer­cury mix­es poor­ly with el­e­ments that consist of most the the earth crust, and also so “ac­cu­mu­la­tions” the min­er­als con­tain­ing mer­cury room formed. The most abun­dant that them space cinnabar (mer­cury sul­fide HgS) and corderoit (Hg₃S₂­Cl₂).

The his­to­ry of met­al

Hu­man­i­ty has actually known about this met­al because that a very long time. It was as­cribed both mys­ti­cal and also heal­ing prop­er­ties. Cinnabar was provided by hu­mans in the Pa­le­olith­ic era, 30,000 years ago. They paint­ed caves through it. The An­cient Greeks used mer­cury sul­fide in oint­ments, and An­cient Egyp­tians and also Ro­mans provided it to make cos­met­ics. Metal­lic mer­cury was uncovered in the tombs of An­cient Egypt, dat­ed 1,600 BCE and the pyra­mids that Teoti­hua­can. The An­cient Egyp­tians and also in­hab­i­tants the Mesoamer­i­ca may have actually used mer­cury to make a pro­to­type that the rivers that the af­ter­world.

Al­chemists be­lieved the mer­cury was the “pri­ma­ry ma­te­ri­al”, the “sub­strate” – the foun­da­tion that ev­ery­thing in ex­is­tence. They believed that mer­cury might turn or­di­nary met­als right into gold.

The met­al bring away its name from the Ro­man God, the pa­tron of traders and also trav­el­ers, who is likewise re­spon­si­ble because that com­mu­ni­ca­tion and also luck. The chem­i­cal sym­bol Hg comes from the Greek word “ὑδράργυρος” (“hy­drar­gy­ros”), i beg your pardon lit­er­al­ly way “wa­ter-sil­ver”, as mer­cury is liq­uid favor wa­ter, and shiny like sil­ver.

Chem­i­cal prop­er­ties of mer­cury

Mer­cury does no re­act v the ma­jor­i­ty of acids, however dis­solves in con­cen­trat­ed sul­fu­ric acid, in ni­tric acid and in aqua re­gia. If mer­cury is inserted in ni­tric acid, mer­cury ni­trate Hg(NO₃)₂ forms:

Hg + 4H­NO₃ → Hg(NO₃)₂ + 2NO₂↑ + H₂O

Mer­cury is much less re­ac­tive than cop­per, for this reason cop­per forces mer­cury the end of its salts. For ex­am­ple, if a cop­per coin is im­mersed in a so­lu­tion that mer­cury ni­trate, metal­lic mer­cury set­tles ~ above the sur­face the the coin:

Cu + Hg(NO₃)₂ → Cu(NO₃)₂ + Hg↓

One fa­mous ex­per­i­ment with mer­cury is the mer­cury heart. Metal­lic mer­cury has a so­lu­tion of sul­fu­ric acid poured end it, and potas­si­um dichro­mate is added. In this ox­i­diz­ing medi­um, ~ above the sur­face of the autumn of mer­cury the film of that sul­fate forms, re­duc­ing the sur­face ten­sion that gives the autumn its form. As a re­sult the drop of mer­cury spreads the end a lit­tle.

2Hg + SO₄²⁻ → Hg₂­SO₄(film) + 2e⁻

Cr₂O₇²⁻ + 14H⁺ + 6e⁻ → 2Cr³⁺ + 7H₂O

If the sur­face the a fall of mer­cury is touched through an iron cable or nail, mer­cury sul­fate is re­duced to metal­lic mer­cury, the movie is bro­ken, the sur­face ten­sion in­creas­es, and the drop “con­tracts”.

Hg₂­SO₄(film) + 2e⁻ → 2Hg↓ + SO₄²⁻

Fe → Fe²⁺ + 2e⁻

When the fall “con­tracts”, con­tact through iron is bro­ken, and also the ox­i­da­tion process of the mer­cury starts again. The autumn once an ext spreads out, touch­es iron, and then con­tracts. This process re­peats again and also again, and also the drop throbs like a beat­ing heart.

Where mer­cury is used

Ow­ing to its tox­i­c­i­ty, the usage of mer­cury to­day has actually been se­vere­ly re­strict­ed.It deserve to still be uncovered in mer­cury ther­mome­ters, which are be­com­ing a thing of the past. Mer­cury ex­pands even­ly ~ above heat­ing in a quite wide selection of tem­per­a­tures, and also as that ex­pands and also ris­es increase the glass cap­il­lary, the is simple to judge a readjust in tem­per­a­ture. The truth that it is opaque and also has a char­ac­ter­is­tic shine provides it con­ve­nient to view where the “col­umn” that mer­cury in the ther­mome­ter is lo­cat­ed.

Ad­di­tion­al­ly, mer­cury fumes are supplied in part lu­mi­nes­cent lamps. Mer­cury fumes ra­di­ate ul­tra­vi­o­let irradiate if one elec­tric cur­rent is passed through them. A spe­cial coat­ing top top the sur­face the the desk lamp con­verts ul­tra­vi­o­let light into vis­i­ble light. Among these lamps con­tains about 10 mg the mer­cury, and in lamps through a low con­tent the this met­al, approximately 4 mg. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, mer­cury is en­coun­tered in some elec­tric switch­es and also cur­rent rec­ti­fiers.

Elec­tric bat­ter­ies room made top top the ba­sis the mer­cury, however nowa­days they have been re­placed through oth­er species of bat­ter­ies and ac­cu­mu­la­tors which do not con­tain mer­cury. There was even an at­tempt to usage mer­cury as “fuel” because that ion­ic en­gines that SERT (Space Elec­tric Rock­et Test) space­craft.

In in­dus­try, mer­cury and also its com­pounds as offered as cat­a­lysts, but one of their wide­spread ap­pli­ca­tions is the elec­trolyt­i­cal pro­duc­tion that ac­tive met­als, chlo­rine and al­ka­lis (the Cast­ner-Keller process). In this process, a very im­por­tant prop­er­ty of mer­cury is used – the abil­i­ty to form amal­gams, and al­loys with oth­er met­als. Just with iron, plat­inum, wol­fram and also tan­ta­lum mer­cury does not form amal­gams.

Amal­gams the mer­cury played a ma­jor function in the de­vel­op­ment the chem­istry and also the dis­cov­ery of new el­e­ments. The renowned Eng­lish chemist teacher Humphrey Davy provided mer­cury ex­ten­sive­ly to ex­tract potas­si­um, mag­ne­sium, cal­ci­um, stron­tium and also bar­i­um by elec­tro­chem­i­cal meth­ods – amal­gams of this met­als were developed in the elec­trol­y­sis that salts and also ox­ides. Davy then re­moved the mer­cury and ex­tract­ed pure (or al­most pure) met­als. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, mer­cury was provided to ex­tract gold from ore, together gold also formed an amal­gam with mer­cury.

Go­ing ago in his­to­ry, we must dis­cuss oth­er spheres in i m sorry mer­cury to be wide­ly used. Com­pounds of this met­al were supplied in medicine as di­uret­ics, lax­a­tives, and also medicine because that syphilis. Medication con­tain­ing mer­cury to be tak­en by the Eng­lish king Hen­ry VIII, Ivan the Ter­ri­ble and Isaac New­ton. In Chi­na and Ti­bet, it to be be­lieved the mer­cury ex­tend­ed life.

In the 20th cen­tu­ry, the com­pound Thiom­er­sal that con­tained mer­cury was supplied to ex­tend the shelf life that vac­cines. Mer­cury and also its ni­trate were offered by man­u­fac­tur­ers of feel hats in the 18th-19th cen­turies. Felt to be soaked in a so­lu­tion the mer­cury ni­trate. Work­ers had to han­dle mer­cury and also breath in that fumes, so poi­son­ing from this met­al was a pro­fes­sion­al ill­ness because that them. As mer­cury poi­son­ing af­fect­ed men­tal health, the ex­pres­sion “mad together a hat­ter” arose. Over there is a leg­end that Lewis Car­rol based the foolish Hat­ter indigenous “Al­ice in Won­der­land” ~ above this kind of work­er. How­ev­er, this is prob­a­bly not the case. The pro­to­type because that the mad Hat­ter to be an ac­quain­tance of Car­rol, the fur­ni­ture deal­er Theophilus Carter.

Safe­ty mea­sures

Mer­cury is high­ly tox­ic. The max­i­mum ac­cept­able con­cen­tra­tion of mer­cury in a room dur­ing a work­ing day should not ex­ceed 0.05 mg per cu­bic me­ter of air. If a per­son in­hales mer­cury fumes over a long pe­ri­od the time, se­ri­ous poi­son­ing will oc­cur, dam­ag­ing the in­ter­nal or­gans and also the ner­vous sys­tem. The per­son de­vel­ops symp­toms that “mad­ness”: ex­ces­sive shy­ness, in­de­ci­sive­ness, pho­bias, lose of self-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion etc. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, the gums and also the res­pi­ra­to­ry street be­come in­flamed, bron­chi­tis de­vel­ops and the di­ges­tive or­gans suf­fer.

What execute you do if mer­cury is spilt at house or at work-related – if a mer­cury ther­mome­ter or lamp con­tain­ing mer­cury breaks? If a mer­cury lamp breaks, ev­ery­one no in­volved in clean­ing increase the mess should leave the room, and take pets with them. Open up the win­dows and turn top top the wait con­di­tion­ing. Put the desk lamp shards in a con­tain­er that have the right to be close up door or a plas­tic bag. Tiny shards deserve to be gath­ered through sticky tape. Climate air the room because that sev­er­al hours. Don’t use a vac­u­um clean­er! This may reason the mer­cury fumes to spread out even more!

If a mer­cury ther­mome­ter breaks, then you should likewise open the win­dows, and also place the shards that the ther­mome­ter in a con­tain­er or plas­tic bag. Balls the mer­cury must be gath­ered an extremely care­ful­ly with a pipette, together they have the prop­er­ty of mov­ing swift­ly in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. To make sure that no un­no­ticed drops of mer­cury have actually been left be­hind, rotate off the light and also shine a torch throughout the floor – you might no­tice shining drops i m sorry were not vis­i­ble in nor­mal light.

The re­mains that the mer­cury which can­not it is in col­lect­ed through a pipette need to be sprin­kled v sul­fur pow­der, i m sorry is offered in spe­cial sets for re­mov­ing mer­cury, or at an or­di­nary phar­ma­cy. You can likewise use iron(III) chlo­ride, i m sorry is sold at shops because that ra­dio en­thu­si­asts. However if the mer­cury has fall­en top top por­ous or wooly sur­faces (for ex­am­ple a rug), then it is bet­ter to throw this items away, as it will be al­most im­pos­si­ble to re­move mer­cury from it.

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Re­mem­ber the the gath­ered shards and re­mains the mer­cury must be dis­pensed through ac­cord­ing come the rules the ap­ply in your area. Girlfriend may discover col­lec­tion sta­tions because that this type of waste.


Paul Par­sons, Gail Dixon — The Pe­ri­od­ic Ta­ble A vis­ual overview to the el­e­ments;Kristi Lew – Mer­cury. The Rosen Pub­lish­ing Group, 2008;Bar­ry R. Leopold – Use and also Re­lease the Mer­cury in the Unit­ed States, Con­tract Nos. 68-C-0027 and also 68-C7-0011, 2002;Wal­dron, H. A. (1983). Did the mad Hat­ter have mer­cury poi­son­ing? brother Med­i­cal Jour­nal (Clin­i­cal Re­search Ed.), 287(6409), 1961;John Burke Sul­li­van, Gary R. Krieger – Clin­i­cal En­vi­ron­men­tal Health and Tox­ic Ex­po­sures. Lip­pin­cott Williams & Wilkins, 2001;Sir Humphry Davy – The Col­lect­ed works of sir Humphry Davy …: Bak­e­ri­an lec­tures and mis­cel­la­neous pa­pers from 1806 to 1815. Smith, El­der and Com­pa­ny, 1840;