Periodic Table -> Mercury
Mercury DetailsMercury Symbol:
HgMercury Atomic Number:
80Mercury Atomic Weight:
200.59What is Mercury?
(atomic number 80, symbol Hg) is a chemical element known as hydrargyrum and quicksilver. It is a silvery, heavy d-block element with a boiling point of 356.73 C and a freezing point of -38.83 C. This element is the only metal in a liquid state at standard conditions for pressure and temperature apart from bromine. Other metals melt above room temperature, including rubidium, francium, caesium, and gallium.
This element is a fair conductor of electricity, but at the same time, it is a poor conductor of heat and has a very low melting point compared to other d-block metals. It does not react with dilute sulfuric acid and most other acids, but aqua regia, nitric acid, and concentrated sulfuric acid dissolve it, giving chloride, nitrate, and sulfate salts.
Mercury has 7 stable isotopes. The longest-lived radioisotopes of mercury are mercury-194 and mercury-203, with half-lives of 444 years and 46.6 days respectively. The most abundant isotope is mercury-202.
Mercury is mainly obtained from cinnabar and is usually not found as a free element in nature. Half of the world’s supply is produced by Italy and Spain. Other countries that produce mercury are Slovenia, China, and Russia. Mineable reserves are estimated at 600,000 tonnes and annual production reaches around 8,000 tonnes.
Regarding applications, the metal is used in scientific instruments, barometers, and thermometers. Mercury vapor is used in advertising signs, fluorescent lamps, as well as streetlights.
The element forms alloys with silver, cadmium, zinc, gold, and other metals, which are called amalgams. They are used to create dental fillings, extract gold from ores, and extend the useful life of cell batteries.
Mercury forms different compounds such as mercuric oxide, mercuric sulfide, mercurous chloride, and mercuric chloride. Calomel or mercurous chloride is a type of antiseptic that kills bacteria. Mercuric chloride was used for wounds’ disinfection in the past and is a poisonous salt. Mercuric oxide is used in the production of mercury batteries while mercuric sulfide is used to produce vermilion, which is a red paint.
Thiomersal, another compound of mercury, is a preservative in vaccines and an organic compound. Mercurochrome or merbromin is a topical antiseptic which is used for minor cuts and scrapes. In cosmetics, thiomersal is used to manufacture massacre. The first US state to ban the use of mercury in cosmetics was Minnesota. In 2008, the state gave it a tougher standard compared to the federal government.
In the form of cinnabar, one of the element’s common ores, mercury is used in the Chinese medicine and in other traditional medicines. Studies on safety have revealed that cinnabar can result in intoxication when the ore is heated. While cinnabar is less toxic than other forms of mercury, its use in traditional medicines has not been justified.
This metal enters the environment as a result of human activities such as solid waste combustion, smelting, mining, and fossil fuel combustion. The breakdown of minerals in soils and rocks also results in mercury entering the environment. The element has a number of effects on the human body, including chromosomal and DNA damage, damage to brain functions, disruption of the nervous system, and negative reproductive effects, including miscarriages, birth defects, and sperm damage. Damaged brain functions lead to personality changes, deafness, vision changes, tremors, memory loss, and muscle incoordination. In addition, it causes allergic reactions that result in headaches, tiredness, and skin rashes.
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