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This article refers to the chemical element. For the planet in the solar system, see Mercury.
General Info
Atomic Symbol [[Atomic symbol::Hg [1]]]
Atomic Number Atomic number::80
Atomic Weight [[Atomic weight::200.592 [2] g/mol]]
Chemical series Transition Metal
Appearance Liquid. (Heavy liquid)[1]
Mercury sample.jpg
Group, Period, Block 12, 6, d
Electron configuration [Xe] 4f14 5d10 6s2
Electrons per shell 2,8,18,32,18,2[3]
Electron shell mercury.png
CAS number CAS number::7439-97-6
Physical properties
Phase liquid [4]
Density Density::13.534 g/cm3 g/ml
Melting point Melting point::-38.87°C (-38°F)
Boiling point [[Boiling point::356.73°C (674.1°F) [1]]]
Isotopes of Mercury
iso NA half-life DT DE (MeV) DP
196Hg 0.15% STABLE - - -
198Hg 9.97% STABLE - - -
199Hg 16.87% STABLE - - -
200Hg 23.10% STABLE - - -
201Hg 13.18% STABLE - - -
202Hg 29.86% STABLE - - -
204Hg 6.87% STABLE - - -
All properties are for STP unless otherwise stated.

Mercury is a diverse element that we are only beginning to discover. It has many unique properties that are useful and also dangerous. Without the element Mercury our scientific machines would not be as advanced, and we would not have created countless other tools without it.


Liquid Mercury

The atomic number of Mercury is 80, and the mass is 200.59. The melting point is -38.9 degrees, and the boiling point is 356.6 degrees. When it is exposed to room temperature it evaporates. [6] In normal conditions mercury is shiny, very heavy, and a silver colored liquid. If a person is exposed too much to Mercury the result can be fatal. Whenever Mercury contacts another metal it forms amalgam. [7]

Mercury is a known toxin and can be breathed in and can penetrate skin. If use of mercury is unavoidable, be sure it is contained not only in a safe, prepared lab, but also under a ventilated hood to ensure no risk to the user’s respiratory system. [2] Mercury can only be handled within a flask, which weighs about 76 lb.[3]


Ore covered in Mercury

Mercury is rarely found in nature in its natural state. Instead, it is extracted and vacuum distilled from its chief ore, cinnabar, unless found polluting streams.[4] [8]Mercury has been found in the South Western United States in states such as California, Nevada, and Utah. Outside of the States, Spain is the leading manufacturer of mercury.[9] Other manufacturers include Finland, China, and Italy. [5]

Mercury is very limited in nature. When Mercury is present, it appears as a Mercury salt or a Mercury compound. It enters the environment as result of a normal breaking down of minerals against rocks and other weather natural causes. Mercury may also turn up in the food chain. It usually starts with small organisms. [6]

Mercury is usually found in the form of the mineral cinnabar, which is a mercury sulfite. To obtain pure Mercury the ore is mashed up and, when at room temperature, is then cleaned with nitric acid. Mercury can be harmful to the environment at times. It gets into the ocean, air, and create polluted water. Methylmercury is the most toxic form of Mercury. A person can be poisoned by this because of eating contaminated fish or seafood. [10] When it enters the body via the respiratory tract, or even just through the skin, it can cause terrible illness or even death. Swordfish and sharks also contain high amounts of Mercury. [5]


A gas discharge tube filled with Mercury

Mercury can be found in many machines and applications, but has been limited because of potential health issues. Some common uses for Mercury are telescopes, dental fillings, and vaccines. [7] Mercury can be used to make barometers, thermometers, and other helpful scientific tools. It also can produce electricity that creates very dependable light switches. Mercury can be found in many different places all around the world. Streetlights, fluorescent lamps, and advertising signs use Mercury. Mercury can also form alloys with other metals like gold, silver, and zinc. [5] The most common place to find Mercury would be in fluorescent lightbulbs, since it is one of the more important chemicals used in those lightbulbs. Mercury is also used in alarms and other various items. [10]

A less toxic version of mercury can be used for household items like batteries, thermometers, and barometers.[11]

Uses of mercury are a few pesticides and dental amalgams, the material used for filling cavities in teeth caused by tooth decay. The mercury in the amalgams has been found as a source of Mercury poisoning. It is also used for and anti fouling paint, used in painting the undersides of boats. [12]

Mercury has a very high density and low melting point, making it extremely sensitive to changing conditions and usable thermometers. [6] Mercury was discovered by ancient philosophers such as the Chinese and Egyptians, mercury has been in use for over 3500 years for medicines and was used to extend life and heal bone fractures and used by the ancient Romans for Cosmetic use. [7] More recently, however, mercury has been found useful in everyday items such as thermometers, streetlights, electric signs, and other lamps. It was also formerly used to treat syphilis. [8] Mercury can also be used to make chlorine [9]

Mercurous Salts:
Mercuric Sulfide: Can be used as either a black or red paint pigment [10]

Mercury fulminate: a dry explosive ignited by being struck or heated.
Mercurous Chloride (I): (calomel) used in electrochemical dimensions

Mercuric Chloride (II): Insecticide, in rodent toxins, and a cleaning agent

Mercuric Oxide: used in skin cream [11][13]

History Of Mercury

Mercury's symbol Hg derives from the Greek word "hydrargyrum", which means "liquid silver". The element itself is named after the planet Mercury, which is the fastest traveling planet in the solar system. The oldest traces of Mercury on earth are found in ancient Egyptian tombs. [10]

As made more popular through Lewis Caroll’s 'Alice in wonderland', the phrase “mad as a hatter” is derived from mercury poison in hatters. In the past, mercury was used to make leather pelts to be used for hats by the hatters. Hatters would inhale the fumes, causing brain injury through mercury poisoning. This caused them to tremble, be aggressive, have mood swings, and show anti-social behavior. [12] Mercury poisoning is now nicknamed "mad-hatter's disease" because of these historical events. [13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Material Safety Data Sheet Mercury MSDS Science Lab. Accessed November 13, 2016.unknown author
  2. Mercury Periodic Table. Accessed November 13, 2016.unknown author
  3. 1Chemistry10 1 Chemistry 10. Accessed November 13, 2016. unknown author
  4. Phase of the Elements Periodic Table. Accessed November 13, 2016.unknown author
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Gagnon, Steve. The Element Mercury Jefferson Lab. Accessed November 13, 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Mercury - Hg Lenntech. Accessed November 12, 2016. unknown author
  7. 7.0 7.1 Mercury Chemistry for Kids. Accessed November 12, 2016.unknown author
  8. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2007, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
  9. Mercury by Thomson Gal, Chemistry Explained
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Facts About Mercury (HG) Live Science. Accessed November 13, 2016.unknown author
  11. Bentor, Yinon. Chemical – Mercury. Nov. 16, 2010.
  12. 1993-2010 Mark Winter[1]
  13. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2007, Columbia University Press