|Name: mercury||Group number: 12|
|Symbol: Hg||Group name: (none)|
|Atomic number: 80||Period number: 6|
|Atomic weight: 200.59 (2)||Block: d-block|
|CAS Registry ID: 7439-97-6||Voice: |
|Standard state: liquid at 298 K (the heaviest known elem||Colour: silvery white|
|Classification: Metallic||Availability: |
Mercury is the only common metal liquid at ordinary temperatures. Mercury is sometimes called quicksilver. It rarely occurs free in nature and is found mainly in cinnabar ore (HgS) in Spain and Italy. It is a heavy, silvery-white liquid metal. It is a rather poor conductor of heat as compared with other metals but is a fair conductor of electricity. It alloys easily with many metals, such as gold, silver, and tin. These alloys are called amalgams. Its ease in amalgamating with gold is made use of in the recovery of gold from its ores.
The most important salts are mercuric chloride HgC12 (corrosive sublimate - a violent poison), mercurous chloride Hg2Cl2 (calomel, occasionally still used in medicine), mercury fulminate (Hg(ONC)2, a detonator used in explosives), and mercuric sulphide (HgS, vermillion, a high-grade paint pigment).
Organic mercury compounds are important - and dangerous. Methyl mercury is a lethal pollutant found in rivers and lakes. The main source of pollution is industrial wastes settling to the river and lake bottoms.
As mercury is a very volatile element, dangerous levels are readily attained in air. Mercury vapour should not exceed 0.1 mg m-3 in air. Air saturated with the vapour at 20°C contains mercury in a concentration far greater than that limit. The danger increases at higher temperatures. It is therefore important that mercury be handled with care. Containers of mercury should be securely covered and spillage should be avoided. Mercury should only be handled under in a well-ventilated area. If you are in possession of any mercury you are advised to contact a properly qualified chemist or public health laboratory for its safe disposal.
Small amounts of mercury spillage can be cleaned up by addition of sulphur powder. The resulting mixture should be disposed of carefully.
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|The picture above shows the result of burning ammonium dichromate, (NH4)2Cr2O7, containing pellets of mercuric thiocyanate (HgCNS). This is a large scale version of the indoor firework "Serpents in te grass". Do not attempt this reaction unless are a professionally qualified chemist and you have carried out a legally satisfactory hazard assessment. Improperly done, this reaction is dangerous! Select a movie icon to see the volcano and serpents (lighting not great - sorry).|
Nearing Zero cartoon included by kind permission of Nick Kim.
IsolationHere is a brief summary of the isolation of mercury.
The physical appearance of mercury is well known because of its use in many thermometers. It was common to demonstrate the formation of mercury in the laboratory by heating mercury sulphide (cinnabar, HgS) but this is strongly discouraged today because of the toxicity of mercury vapours. Don"t do it! However, this method forms the basis of commercial extraction. The prepared cinnabar ore is heated in a current of air and the mercury vapour condensed.
HgS + O2 (600°C) Hg (l) + SO2 (g)
The crude mercury is then washed with nitric acid and treated with air in order to remove impurities as oxides or into solution. Further purification is achieved by distillation at reduced pressure.