Nature of Mercury and its Explanation

The element of mercury is a shiny silver-white metal bond which is a liquid at room temperature and is traditionally used in thermometers and some electrical switches. If not closed, at room temperature some metal mercury will evaporate and form mercury vapor. Mercury vapor has a colorless and odorless nature. The higher the temperature, the more steam will be released from liquid metal mercury. Mercury is mined as mercury sulfide (cinnabar ore).

Historically, cinnabar deposits have been the source of ore for commercial mining of metal mercury. The metal form is purified from mercury sulfide ore by heating the ore to temperatures above 540º C. It evaporates mercury in the ore, and steam is then captured and cooled to form liquid metal mercury.

table of contents

  • Mercury
    • Properties of Mercury
      • Physical characteristics of mercury
      • Mercury is a heavy metal
      • Atomic mass, specific gravity, melting point and boiling point of mercury
      • Mercury vapor pressure
      • Electric charge generated
      • Mercury corrosivity
      • Mercury cannot biodegrade
      • Abundance of mercury
      • Mercury isotopes
      • The forms and risks posed by mercury
      • Organic Mercury
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Mercury is the chemical meaning of an element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. Mercury is commonly known as quicksilver and was previously named hydrargyrum. Mercury is used in thermometers, barometers, manometers, sphygmomanometers, floating valves, mercury switches, mercury relays, fluorescent lamps, and other devices.

Although concerns about the toxicity of these elements have led to mercury thermometers and sphygmomanometers being phased out in the clinical environment. Alternatives such as glass or alcohol-filled thermometers and thermistor or infrared-based electronic instruments.

Likewise, mechanical pressure gauges and electronic strain gauge sensors have replaced the mercury sphygmomanometer. However, mercury is still used in scientific research applications and in amalgams for dental restorations in several places. It is also used in neon lighting.

The electricity passing through mercury vapor in fluorescent lamps produces short-wave ultraviolet light, which then causes phosphorus in fluorescent tubes, making light visible.

Mercury poisoning can result from exposure to forms of water-soluble mercury (such as mercury chloride or methylmercury), by inhalation of mercury vapor, or by ingesting any form of mercury.

Definition of Mercury

Mercury is one of the chemical elements in the Periodic System (SPU) table with the symbol of its chemical material, Hg or hydrargyrum. In Indonesian, mercury is also known as mercury. Mercury is included in the transition metal group, so this element is also named as heavy metal.

Mercury appears naturally in the environment and takes many forms. Like lead or cadmium, mercury is a constituent of the earth, a heavy metal. Mercury is rarely found in nature as pure liquid metal, but more in compounds and inorganic salts.

Mercury can be bound to other compounds as monovalent or divalent mercury (also expressed as Hg (I) and Hg (II) or Hg2 +, respectively). Many inorganic and organic mercury compounds are formed from Hg (II).

Understanding Mercury According to Experts

The definition of mercury according to experts, among others:

United States Environmental Protection Agency

Mercury is a naturally occurring chemical element found in rocks in the earth’s crust, including in coal deposits. On the periodic table, it has the symbol “Hg” and its atomic number is 80. There are several forms: element (metal) mercury, inorganic mercury compounds, and methylmercury and other organic compounds.

Department of Environmental Conservation

Mercury is an element or compound that is very dense and naturally formed. Some of these mercury compounds are mercury oxide, mercury sulfide, mercury chloride, and mercury nitrates. Mercury nitrates have been used historically in the process of making caps.

Mercury poisoning is so prevalent among haters in the industry that it is an inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s character “The Mad Hatter” in his story, “Alice in Wonderland.”

Properties of Mercury

Mercury has several characteristics, including:

1. Physical characteristics of mercury

Physically, mercury is an odorless silver metal liquid. Insoluble in water. Toxic if swallowed, absorbed and breathes vapor. Corrosive to aluminum. Used as a catalyst in instruments, boilers, mirror coatings.

Mercury has a silver-white color like a mirror. Mercury has a high surface tension. When mercury spills, it breaks into tiny beads that often nest in cracks. In addition, mercury also has a high density.

2. Mercury is a heavy metal

Like cadmium, zinc, and lead, mercury is a natural element known as a “heavy metal” and can be toxic to living organisms.

3. Atomic mass, specific gravity, melting point and boiling point of mercury

The atomic mass of the element mercury is 200.59 grams per mole and its specific gravity is 13.5 times that of water. The Mercury Point has a melting point of -38.9 degrees C, a boiling point of 356.7 degrees C, and is the only metal that remains in liquid form at room temperature.

Other metals which are liquid close to room temperature are gallium, francium and cesium. Mercury metal is relatively stable in dry air, but in moist air slowly to form a gray oxide layer.

4. Mercury vapor pressure

Mercury has a relatively high vapor pressure and the highest volatility of any metal, evaporating into a colorless and odorless gas.

5. Electric charge generated

Naturally, mercury has 3 possible electric charge conditions, or valence states. Elemental mercury (Hg0) has no electric charge. Mercury is also found in two positively charged, or cationic conditions, Hg2 + (mercury) and Hg1 + (mercury).

Mercury cations are more stable and are generally associated with inorganic molecules, such as sulfur (in the mineral cinnabar), chlorine (mercury chloride), oxygen, and hydroxyl ions. Hg2 + is also found in organic (carbon-based) substances such as dimethylmercury (Me2Hg), which are far more toxic than inorganic mercury and accumulate in living organisms.

Because mercury can be easily adsorbed into small particles of matter, some scientists use the Hg (p) notation to represent the element of mercury that is attached or absorbed into the particle.

6. Mercury corrosivity

The high mobility and tendency of dispersion is shown by mercury, and its ease of forming alloys (amalga) with many laboratory and electrical contact metals, can cause severe corrosion problems in the laboratory.

7. Mercury cannot biodegrade

Because it is an element, mercury cannot biodegrade. These are converted between their various forms through a series of abiotic and biogeochemical transformations and during atmospheric transportation. Although the shape and availability for living organisms can change over time, mercury still exists in the environment.

8. Abundance of mercury

In the earth’s crust an abundance of mercury is 85 parts per billion weight, 9 parts per billion moles, while the abundance of mercury in the solar system: 20 parts per billion weight, 120 parts per trillion moles.

Mercury rarely occurs free in nature, but can be found in ores, especially mercury sulfide (cinnabar, HgS). The metal is extracted by baking cinnabar in the air stream. The resulting mercury vapor is condensed to collect liquid metal.

9. Mercury isotopes

Mercury has 34 known half-life isotopes, with mass numbers from 175 to 208. The naturally formed mercury is a mixture of seven isotopes and is found in the indicated percentages: 196Hg (0.2%), 198Hg (10.0%), 199Hg (16.9%), 200Hg (23.1%), 201Hg (13.2%), 202Hg (29.9%) and 204Hg (6.9%). The most natural forming isotope is 202 Hg at 29.9%.

10.          The forms and risks posed by mercury

Mercury has three forms: elemental (liquid mercury), inorganic mercury and organic mercury (methylmercury). With the explanation as follows;

Elemental Mercury

Elemental (liquid) mercury is the most common form. This is a metal, silvery liquid (also called quicksilver) that is processed from ore called cinnabar. It breaks easily into droplets and evaporates at room temperature into a colorless, colorless vapor that can be easily inhaled.

Risks posed are: It easily crosses blood / brain and placental barriers and can enter breast milk. This is a powerful neurotoxin that affects the central nervous system.

Some neurological effects are: tremors, mood swings, irritability, excessive embarrassment, insomnia, loss of coordination, unclear speech, and “pinch and needle sensation”. Very high exposure can cause kidney effects, respiratory failure, and death.

Inorganic mercury

Inorganic mercury is usually white, except for cinnabar, which is red. Inorganic mercury can enter the body through the mouth and skin from products such as disinfectants and fungicides. Inorganic mercury compounds are often found in school science laboratories.

The risk posed is that this is the most toxic of the three forms of mercury. This can damage the GI tract, as well as the kidneys and nervous system. High exposure can cause skin rashes, dermatitis, mood swings, memory loss, mental disorders, and muscle weakness.

Organic Mercury

Organic mercury or methylmercury is most often found in the environment. It is converted from inorganic form by biological bacterial processes. This accumulates in the environment and is most often found in fish. Oral fish consumption is the most common route of mercury exposure to humans.

Risks include: Methylmercury crosses blood / brain and placental barriers, which can damage the central nervous system and cause birth defects, neurological problems, and developmental delays.

The fetus is the most vulnerable to the toxic effects of methylmercury because research has shown that blood chord levels are twice as concentrated as maternal blood levels for mercury.

Chronic exposure to methylmercury can cause visual disturbances, speech, walking, hearing, lack of coordination, and cause the sensation of ” pins and needles “. Extreme exposure can cause death.

That was a complete explanation and review that we can give to all readers related to the various properties of mercury and its explanation. Hopefully this article can provide insight and increase knowledge for all readers. T


by Abdullah Sam
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