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What is Mercury?

Mercury is an element with an atomic number 80 and an atomic mass of 200.59 g/mol. It is the only liquid metal. Its symbol is Hg. It is placed in the d-block of the modern periodic table so it's also a transition element. Elements in the d block are referred to as transition because of their position which is in the middle of the s block and the p-block. The position of mercury metal in the periodic table is the 12th group and 6th period. Mercury is a good conductor of electricity and a slight good conductor of heat. Due to the presence of unpaired electrons in the d orbital of mercury element, it is a good conductor of electricity.

Chemical Properties of Mercury

Mercury is a less reactive metal.

  • It does not react with the oxygen present in the air.

  • Mercury reacts with some acids.

  • Mercury can be dissolved in aqua regia and concentrated nitric acid.

  • Mercury reacts with sulphur.

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Mercury Physical Properties 

Mercury Physical properties are-

  • Mercury is a shiny silvery liquid metal.

  • The density of mercury is 13.6g per centimetre cube at 20-degree Celsius.

  • The boiling point of Mercury is very high that is 356.6-degrees Celcius.

  • The electronic configuration 4f145d106s2.

  • The 3 ionization enthalpies of mercury are 1004 KJ/mole, 1796kj/mole, 3294 KJ/mole respectively. The increment is seen in the ionization enthalpy of mercury. The third ionization enthalpy of mercury is the highest. This is because of the extra stability of full-filled d-orbitals.

  • The surface tension of mercury metal is very high.

Symbol of Mercury in the Periodic Table

  • Mercury symbol Hg is derived from the Greek word for mercury that is Hydrargyrum. The meaning of this word is liquid silver as it has colour and shine as silver but is fluid in the state.

  • Mercury is the only liquid metal that exists.

  • Mercury metal was discovered by the ancient people.

  • Mercury is an element that cannot be prepared or destroyed. The only source of mercury is its ores in the earth.

  • Mercury is highly toxic and must be handled with care. It is hazardous to the environment and workplace.

  • Mercury can enter the food chain and shows the phenomenon of biological magnification. A classic example of this is the Minamata disease in Japan that was caused by eating the fishes of the pond whose water was polluted with mercury metal.

  • Mercury is also known as quicksilver because it moves fast when poured. It got its name from the fast-moving planet mercury.

  • It is a heavy metal and forms certain compounds that are non-biodegradable thus gets accumulated in the environment.

  • The alloys of mercury metal with other metals such as tin gold etc are known as amalgams.

  • The sulphide ore of mercury is Cinnabar.

Environmental Effects of Mercury

  • Mercury is converted into methyl mercury by some microorganisms. Methyl mercury is a compound that is soluble in water and can be easily absorbed by living organisms. Like this mercury enters the food chain and affects different organisms. This leads to the death of many organisms which disturbs the balance of nature.

  • Mercuric compounds are non-biodegradable and get accumulated in the environment. Accumulation of such a toxic heavy metal is extremely dangerous for the ecosystem.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What are the Applications of Mercury?

There are various applications of mercury metal in different sectors-

  • Mercury is used in thermometers to measure the temperature of bodies and objects.  

  • Vermillion is mercuric sulfide.

  • Some compounds of mercury are used in explosives.

  • Mercuric chloride is used in medicine.

  • Various compounds of mercury are used as a skin ointment.

  • Some mercury compounds are also used as insecticides and rodenticides.

  • Mercury metal is used in making batteries and lights and fluorescent lamps.

  • Other than thermometers mercury is also used in barometers, manometers, sphygmomanometers (an instrument used to measure blood pressure).

  • Mercury is also used as a catalyst in many reactions. 

  • Mercury is also used in the gold mining process.

Q2. Explain the Effects of Mercury on Health and the Environment.

Health effects of mercury are-

If mercury is split from broken thermometers it can enter into the body through inhalation as it's a volatile metal or through the skin and can cause various diseases in the body if present in a large amount. 

  • Mercury is a highly toxic metal and can cause skin irritation, skin rashes, allergic reactions.

  • It can cause headaches, can damage the nervous system of the body.

  • It can cause genetic deformities and alteration in the genetic material of a person.

  • It can also negatively affect reproductive health.

  • Other ill-effects of mercury include vision changes, memory loss, and muscle damage, and muscle incoordination.