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It's Elemental

The Element Mercury

[Click for Isotope Data]


80 Hg Mercury 200.592

Atomic Number: 80

Atomic Weight: 200.592

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

Electron Shell Configuration:


2s2   2p6

3s2   3p6   3d10

4s2   4p6   4d10   4f14

5s2   5p6   5d10


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For questions about this page, please contact Steve Gagnon.