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Mercury Metal

Last updated date: 16th May 2024
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Definition of Mercury Metal

Mercury is defined as a chemical element having the symbol Hg. It has an atomic number of 80. Quicksilver is the new name for hydrargyrum, which was formerly known as hydrargyrum. Mercury is the only metallic element, which is in the liquid state at standard temperatures and pressures. It is a heavy, silvery d-block element. The only other liquid element at these temperatures and pressures is the halogen bromine, however metals like caesium, gallium, and rubidium dissolve just above room temperature. The density of mercury metal is 13.5 g/mL.

Mercury element is found in cinnabar deposits all over the entire planet (mercuric sulfide). Natural cinnabar or synthetic mercuric sulphide are mixed to make the red pigment vermilion.

Forms of Mercury

Mercury exists in several forms:

  • Elemental (metallic) mercury

  • Inorganic mercury compounds

  • Methyl mercury and other organic compounds

Elemental (Metallic) Mercury

Mercury is a shining silver-white metal that is liquid at room temperature and was originally known as quicksilver. It is also known as elemental or metallic mercury. Older thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs, and some electrical switches include it. When elemental mercury is released, it diffuses into tiny droplets that can flow through small cracks or attach to particular materials. When the elemental mercury is exposed to room temperature, it can evaporate into an odourless, toxic vapour. It turns into a colourless, odourless gas when heated.

Elemental mercury is mercury that hasn't been reacted with any of the other substances. Mercury produces a compound when it reacts with another substance, such as inorganic mercury salts or methylmercury.

Inorganic Mercury

Mercury is abundant in the environment in its inorganic form, primarily as the minerals cinnabar and metacinnabar, as well as impurities in other minerals. Mercury can instantly combine with chlorine, sulphur, and other elements, forming inorganic salts as a result of weathering. Inorganic mercury salts can travel through water and can be found in soil. Mining deposits of mercury-containing ores can release dust containing these salts into the air.

Coal-fired power plants, the burning of municipal and medical waste, and mercury-using factories can all emit elemental or inorganic mercury. Weathering of rocks containing inorganic mercury salts, as well as factories or water treatment facilities that release mercury-contaminated water, can all contribute to inorganic mercury entering water or soil.

Methyl Mercury

When inorganic mercury salts are able to attach themselves to airborne particles. These particles are deposited on land by rain and snow. Even when mercury is deposited on land, it is frequently released into the atmosphere as a gas or as particles, where it is redeposited.

Emissions of Mercury into the Air

When mercury is released from rock and ends up in the atmosphere and water, it causes a problem for the environment. These discharges might occur in a natural way. Mercury is released into the atmosphere by both volcanoes and forest fires.

Human activities, on the other hand, are responsible for a large portion of the mercury emitted into the environment. Mercury can be released into the air when coal, oil, or wood are burned as fuel, as well as when mercury-containing wastes are burned.

Mercury in the air can fall to the earth in the form of raindrops, dust, or gravity (known as "air deposition"). How much mercury is emitted from local, regional, national, and international sources determines how much mercury is deposited in a given area.

Properties, Uses, and Occurrence

Let us discuss the mercury metal uses, properties and occurrences here.

Properties of Mercury Metal

Mercury was known as early as 1500 BCE in Egypt and most likely in the East. Mercury originally comes from alchemy in the 6th century, when the planet's symbol was adopted to represent the metal; the chemical symbol Hg comes from the Latin hydrargyrum, which means "liquid silver." Despite the fact that its toxicity had been known early on, it was mostly used for medical purposes.

Mercury is the only elemental metal that is liquid at room temperature. Cesium melts at around 28.5°C (83°F), gallium melts at about 30°C (86°F), and the rubidium melts at nearly 39°C (102°F). Mercury is silvery white, tarnishes slowly in wet air, and freezes at 38.83°C (37.89°F) into a soft solid similar to tin or lead. At 356.62°C (673.91°F), it boils. 13.5 g/mL is the density of mercury metal. 

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Mercury Metal Uses

It forms amalgams, or liquid alloys, with copper, tin, and zinc. In dentistry, an amalgam with silver is used as a filling. Mercury does not wet or stick to glass, which made it useful in thermometers due to its rapid and consistent volume expansion throughout its liquid range. (In the early 21st century, mercury thermometers were replaced by more accurate electronic digital thermometers.) Its high density and low vapour pressure were also utilised in barometers and manometers.

However, due to mercury's toxicity, it has been taken out of these instruments. Mercury dissolves gold and silver readily, and this property was once used to extract these metals from their ores.

Mercury's high electrical conductivity makes it ideal for use in sealed electrical switches and relays. A bluish glow rich in ultraviolet light is produced by an electrical discharge through mercury vapour contained in a fused silica tube or bulb, a phenomenon exploited in UV, fluorescent, and high-pressure mercury-vapour lamps. Pharmaceuticals, as well as agricultural and industrial fungicides, contain some mercury.

The use of mercury in the electrolysis of brine to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide in the 20th century was based on the fact that mercury used as the negative pole, or cathode, dissolves the sodium released to form a liquid amalgam. Mercury-cell factories for the production of chlorine and sodium hydroxide, on the other hand, were mostly phased out in the early 21st century.


The average amount of mercury found in the Earth's crust is 0.08 gm (0.003 ounce) per ton of rock. Cinnabar, a red sulphide, is the most important ore. Near volcanoes or hot springs, native mercury is found in isolated drops and occasionally in larger fluid masses, generally with cinnabar. Moschellandsbergite (with silver), potarite (with palladium), and gold amalgam are all extremely rare natural mercury alloys. China produces almost 90% of the world's mercury, which is often a by-product of gold mining.

Cinnabar is mined in shafts or open pits and refined through flotation. Most mercury extraction methods rely on the metal's combustibility and the fact that cinnabar is quickly decomposed by air or lime to release the free metal. Cinnabar is used to extract mercury by burning it in the air and then condense the mercury vapour. Because of mercury's toxicity and the threat of strict environmental controls, researchers have been focusing on better mercury extraction methods.

The fact that cinnabar is very soluble in sodium hypochlorite or sulphide solutions allows the mercury to be recovered via zinc or aluminium precipitation or electrolysis.


Mercury is toxic. Inhalation of the vapour, ingestion of soluble compounds, or skin absorption of mercury can all cause poisoning, so that it is said as mercury metal poisoning. This is the information on mercury metal poisoning.

Mercury in nature is composed of seven stable isotopes:

  • 196Hg (0.15 %),

  • 198Hg (9.97 %),

  • 199Hg (16.87 %),

  • 200Hg (23.10 %),

  • 201Hg (13.18 %),

  • 202Hg (29.86 %), and

  • 204Hg (6.87 %).

As a wavelength standard and for other precise work, isotopically pure mercury, composed only of mercury-198 produced by neutron bombardment of natural gold, gold-197, has been used.

Mercury Metal Facts

Mercury in its shining, fast-moving liquid state is beautiful, but don't touch it! Humans can be extremely poisoned by it. Mercury's symbol Hg is derived from its Greek name, hydrargyrum, which means "liquid silver" and refers to its shining surface. Because of its mobility, the element is also known as quicksilver.

FAQs on Mercury Metal

1. Give the principal compounds of mercury metal?

Mercury compounds have an oxidation state of either +1 or +2. Mercury(II) and mercuric compounds are the most frequent. Mercury(II) oxide, HgO, does not combine with oxygen at a useful rate until it is heated to between 300 and 350 °C (572 to 662 °F). The reaction reverses at temperatures of around 400 °C (752 °F) and above, with the complex decomposing into its constituent elements. In their study of oxygen, Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and Joseph Priestley used this reaction.

2. Give the emissions from Power Plants and its causes?

Because mercury is naturally found in coal and other fossil fuels, it becomes airborne and enters the atmosphere when these fuels are burned for electricity. Power plants that burn coal to generate electricity are the major source of emissions in the United States, accounting for nearly 44% of all man-made mercury emissions.

Mercury emissions were originally mostly caused by the burning of municipal and medical waste. However, coupled with state and federal regulations, a reduction in mercury usage has resulted in a 95% reduction in emissions from this source.