The Element Mercury
[Click for Isotope Data]
Atomic Number: 80
Atomic Weight: 200.59
Melting Point: 234.32 K (-38.83°C or -37.89°F)
Boiling Point: 629.88 K (356.73°C or 674.11°F)
Density: 13.5336 grams per cubic centimeter
Phase at Room Temperature: Liquid
Element Classification: Metal
Period Number: 6 Group Number: 12 Group Name: none
What's in a name? Named after the planet Mercury. Mercury's chemical symbol comes from the Greek word hydrargyrum, which means "liquid silver."
Say what? Mercury is pronounced as MER-kyoo-ree.
History and Uses:
Mercury was known to the ancient Chinese and Hindus and has been found in 3500 year old Egyptian tombs. Mercury is not usually found free in nature and is primarily obtained from the mineral cinnabar (HgS). Spain and Italy produce about half of the world's supply of Mercury.
Mercury can be used to make thermometers, barometers and other scientific instruments. Mercury conducts electricity and is used to make silent, position dependent switches. Mercury vapor is used in streetlights, fluorescent lamps and advertising signs.
Mercury easily forms alloys with other metals, such as gold, silver, zinc and cadmium. These alloys are called amalgams. Amalgams are used to help extract gold from its ores, create dental fillings (in the case of silver) and help extend the life of dry cell batteries (in the case of zinc and cadmium).
Mercury forms useful compounds with other elements. Mercuric chloride (HgCl2) is a very poisonous salt and was once used to disinfect wounds. Mercurous chloride (Hg2Cl2), also called calomel, is an antiseptic used to kill bacteria. Mercuric sulfide (HgS) is used to make a red paint pigment called vermilion. Mercuric oxide (HgO) is used to make mercury batteries.
Mercury is poisonous and can enter the body through the respiratory tract, the digestive tract or directly through the skin. It accumulates in the body, eventually causing severe illness or death.
Estimated Crustal Abundance: 8.5×10-2 milligrams per kilogram
Estimated Oceanic Abundance: 3×10-5 milligrams per liter
Number of Stable Isotopes: 7 (View all isotope data)
Ionization Energy: 10.438 eV
Oxidation States: +2, +1
3s2 3p6 3d10
4s2 4p6 4d10 4f14
5s2 5p6 5d10