Mercury Basic Facts:
Mercury Periodic Table Location
Mercury Electron Configuration
Short Form: [Xe]4f145d106s2
Long Form: 1s22s22p63s23p63d104s24p64d105s25p64f145d106s2
Shell Structure: 2 8 18 32 18 2
Discovery Date: Known to the ancient Hindus and Chinese. Mercury has been found in Egyptian tombs dating to 1500 B.C.
Name: Mercury derives its name from the association between the planet Mercury and its use in alchemy. The alchemical symbol for mercury was the same for the metal and the planet. The element symbol, Hg, is derived from the Latin name 'hydragyrum' meaning "water silver".
Mercury Physical Data
State at room temperature (300 K): Liquid
Appearance: heavy silvery white metal
Density: 13.546 g/cc (20 °C)
Melting Point: 234.32 K (-38.83 °C or -37.894 °F)
Boiling Point: 356.62 K (356.62 °C or 629.77 °F)
Critical Point: 1750 K at 172 MPa
Heat of Fusion: 2.29 kJ/mol
Heat of Vaporization: 59.11 kJ/mol
Molar Heat Capacity: 27.983 J/mol·K
Specific Heat: 0.138 J/g·K (at 20 °C)
Mercury Atomic Data
Oxidation States: +2 , +1
Electron Affinity: not stable
Atomic Radius: 1.32 Å
Atomic Volume: 14.8 cc/mol
Ionic Radius: 1.10 Å (+2e) 1.27 Å (+1e)
Covalent Radius: 1.32 Å
Van der Waals Radius: 1.55 Å
First Ionization Energy: 1007.065 kJ/mol
Second Ionization Energy: 1809.755 kJ/mol
Third Ionization Energy: 3299.796 kJ/mol
Mercury Nuclear Data
Number of isotopes: There are 7 naturally occurring isotopes of mercury..
Isotopes and % abundance: 196Hg (0.15), 198Hg (9.97), 199Hg (198.968), 200Hg (23.1), 201Hg (13.18), 202Hg (29.86) and 204Hg (6.87)
Mercury Crystal Data
Lattice Structure: Rhombohedral
Lattice Constant: 2.990 Å
Debye Temperature: 100.00 K
Mercury is amalgamated with gold to facilitate the recovery of gold from its ores. Mercury is used to make thermometers, diffusion pumps, barometers, mercury vapor lamps, mercury switches, pesticides, batteries, dental preparations, antifouling paints, pigments, and catalysts. Many of the salts and organic mercury compounds are important.
Miscellaneous Mercury Facts
- Mercury compounds with the +2 oxidation states are known as 'mercuric' in older texts. Example: HgCl2 was known as mercuric chloride.
- Mercury compounds with the +1 oxidation state are known as 'mercurous' in older texts. Example: Hg2Cl2 was known as mercurous chloride.
- Mercury is rarely found free in nature. Mercury is harvested from cinnabar (mercury(I) sulfide - HgS). It is extracted by heating the ore and collecting the mercury vapor produced.
- Mercury is also known by the name 'quicksilver'.
- Mercury is one of the few elements that is liquid at ordinary room temperatures.
- Mercury and its compounds are highly poisonous. Mercury is readily absorbed across unbroken skin or though the respiratory or gatroinstentinal tract. It acts as a cumulative poison.
- Mercury is very volatile in air. When room temperature air (20°C) is saturated with mercury vapor, the concentration greatly exceeds the toxic limit. The concentration, and thus the danger, increases at higher temperatures.
- Early alchemists believed all metals contained varying amounts of mercury. Mercury was used in many experiments to transmute one metal into another.
- Chinese alchemists believed mercury promoted health and extended life and included it with several medicines.
- Mercury readily forms alloys with other metals, called amalgams. The term amalgam literally means 'alloy of mercury' in Latin.
- An electrical discharge will cause mercury to combine with the noble gases argon, krypton, neon, and xenon.
- Mercury floats on water, which decomposes it to evolve hydrogen and form the hydroxide. Mercury may ignite spontaneously on water. It does not usually ignite in air at temperatures below 115°C.
References: CRC Handbook of Chemistry & Physics (89th Ed.), National Institute of Standards and Technology, History of the Origin of the Chemical Elements and Their Discoverers, Norman E. Holden 2001.
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