Mercury is a transition metal that is a bright silver color in its natural liquid state. It is one of the few metals that is a liquid at room temperatures and pressure. Mercury has an atomic weight of 200.59, a melting point of - 37.89 °F, and a boiling point of 674.11 °F. Mercury is most often used in scientific thermometers; it is also used in barometers, diffusion pumps, sphygmomanometers, electron tubes, neon signs, dentistry amalgams, and in the production of atomic clocks.
Mercury occurs in nature in its native form in nature, but it is extremely rare. More often, mercury is isolated from minerals in which it occurs in.
The process of isolating mercury used to be carried out for science demonstrations in small laboratories, but the high toxicity of mercury compounds that was realized over the years has put a stop to anything but commercial mercury isolation. Most mercury extractions and isolations for commercial uses are from the mineral cinnabar; this mineral contains high amounts of mercury sulfide. Other minerals which contain mercury include corderoite and livinstonite.
The isolation process of mercury from cinnabar is relatively simple. The cinnabar is heated to approximately 1112 °F and a current of air is run through the heated mineral. Oxygen from the air reacts with the sulfur in the cinnabar to produce pure mercury liquid and gaseous sulfuric oxide. This liquid mercury is washed with nitric acid and exposed again to air treatments to remove any impurities that remained; distilling the liquid at reduced pressure will result in a highly pure isolated form of liquid mercury metal.
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