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The element
Liquid metal

Liquid metal mercury (don't try this at home!)The element Mercury (Hg) is a metal which is liquid at room temperature! Mercury is a bit like lead but it's liquid. You can hold it in your hand. (Not recommended - it's toxic!). Mercury is heavy (density (specific gravity) 13.6), in fact so heavy that objects such as bricks, cannonballs, and lumps of lead or iron will float in Mercury. Gold doesn't float in mercury - it behaves more like sugar in tea! Mercury does not stick to magnets, so if it gets into your carpets or under your floorboards it will be a long-term problem. Mercury vapour makes nice bright lights but is not for breathing.

The highly reflective surface of the Mercury, or Quicksilver* as it is sometimes known, makes it the stuff of mirrors. It's also used for thermometers, barometers, electrical devices, etc. However the problem is the cumulative poisonous nature. In the pure metal form it's relatively inert, so not so deadly, but in compounds such as mercuric chloride it's skull-and-crossbones stuff! Quicksilver, not to be confused with Quiksilver which is surf & skate wear.

Snooker/Pool ball floating on liquid metal mercuryAlthough mercury is a liquid it is not wet. It has a negative coefficient of surface tension, which means that the meniscus on the surface is the other way up from normal, or to put it another way it does not soak into material but more runs off in the style of "water off a duck's back".

Some more information about Mercury exists at Xyroth's mercury page

Anyway, Why is mercury a liquid at room temperature? <Find out here!

One of the most commonly asked questions about this page is Where can I get some mercury? followed very closely by How can I get rid of some mercury?! Seeing both of these questions together may help to give a clue on how to solve them both. However, so I can avoid ending up as a kind of mercurial dating agency I have written up both sets of instructions and hope to avoid confusion. That is, apart from the confusion already caused by mercury in the first place!

If you spill liquid metal mercury, one method for neatly removing it is to freeze it with dry ice and then pick it up with tweezers. This clean, safe, and quick method was sent in by someone with some experience of mercury and dry ice. Thanks!

If you spill some mercury, even if you have no dry ice, you should still pick up every last bit of it. Using pen tops, plastic spoons, jars, etc, is effective and should eventually see the last globules of mercury extracted from the situation of the spillage. Don't panic; just pick it all up and put it in a jar with a good lid. By the way, you can't soak mercury up in a cloth, because it's a liquid that's not wet. However, you can use the surface tension to your advantage by making the globules combine. (Looks a bit like something in the final scene of Terminator 2. Also see liquid nitrogen). Even if you are worried about being poisoned slightly on one day picking the mercury up, it's better to avoid the long term health risks of the vapour from having it left around.A pint of mercury weighs 17 pounds

When handling liquid metal mercury, make sure you're not wearing gold jewellery. (In these pictures, Zyra's jewellery is not gold). Mercury sticks to gold like molten solder sticks to electrical contacts. It's difficult to remove. Yes it can be removed, but it's an expensive and/or smelly/toxic process.

That picture shows a pint beer glass full of liquid metal mercury. Do you think it looks heavy? Well it is! It weighs about 17 pounds. I'm having to strain to lift it with one hand. In fact it's a good thing the handle didn't come off!

If you find all this stuff interesting, useful, worth knowing about, or even worth contributing to... [response]

Safety notice: Being as silly as this with deadly substances is not recommended; you do what you will at your own risk. Zyra is a qualified mad scientist.

Mad as a Hatter? A great many hatters were mad in the old days because mercury was used for part of the process of felt hat-making. Copies of Alice In Wonderland can be downloaded Free at Project Gutenberg

----- Original Message -----
From: Willie Brown
To: Zyra
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2004 11:41 PM
Subject: Mercury

When I was young...., in the 40s
We had an electric limiter in the house. We paid a fixed figure every month for our Electric supply. We were only allowed to use say 160 W at any one time. This was controlled by a limiting device which consisted of a little bath of Mercury and a spring which jumped up and down when the permitted load was exceeded. This of course caused the light to flicker out and in until you reduced the load to the permitted limit.

W.Brown....Northern Ireland

Other physical properties:

Mercury freezing point: -38.72 degrees C

Mercury boiling point: 357 degrees C

Mercury density (specific gravity) 13.6

Mercury element number (on the Periodic Table) 80

Atomic weight 200.59

Colour: the colour of a mirror!

Other mercury links:


Incidentally, this IS the page about The Element Mercury! it is baffling that Google thinks that the peripherally-interesting photographs are the page when THIS plainly is the page! It's an actual page about the metal that is a liquid at room temperature.

There are other liquid metals. Most notably Gallium, which melts at just below 30 degrees C, so it's a liquid at tropical daytime temperatures. Gallium is an aluminium-like substance, but liquid in some warm environments. Also caesium and rubidium are liquid metals, but they are so reactive they make sodium look stable. There are also some eutectic alloys which have low temperature melting points.