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Reserach Mercury Paper Oh My

1201 words - 5 pages

According to Chemical Elements, 2010, the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans knew about mercury. It has been purified since the ancients. Philosophers such as Aristotle and Theophrastus wrote about or mentioned mercury in their writings giving us evidence that they knew much about mercury. Between 372-287 B.C., Theophrastus described a rudimentary method for purifying mercury. The oldest pure sample of mercury has been dated back to the 15th or 16th century B.C. Scientists found the sample sealed in a glass jar in an Egyptian tomb at Kurna (Newton, 2010). Mercury was supposedly discovered to be an element by Jabir ibn Hayyan, a Persian polymath who studied alchemy and ...view middle of the document...

5 ppm on the surface of the Earth(Newton, 2010). It is one of the 20 least common elements, but it is not considered “rare” because it is commonly found as cinnabar ore or mercuric sulfide. Cinnabar deposits are found in China, Kyrgyzstan, Slovenia, Italy and Ukraine as well as the U.S. and Spain who do not currently mine mercury.
The purification process of cinnabar into mercury is rather simple. According to Cavette the cinnabar is first ground up using cone shaped grinders and ball and rod cylinders tumblers. Once the cinnabar has been ground into a dust, the dust enters a furnace at 675°C-700°C. The cinnabar is thoroughly heated and the resulting gas is collected while the remaining rock residue is disposed of. This gas is then condensed into a fine filter. The filtered liquid is pure mercury that can be up to 99.9% pure. The mercury is then poured into iron shipping containers to be shipped. This mercury can be further purified by distillation similar to those that we have performed earlier this year(Cavette).
Mercury was much more commonly used in the 20th century than it is today because its toxicity has only recently been discovered. A very common use of mercury was in the mercury cell. This cell was used to produce pure chlorine gas by the electrolysis of NaCl, sodium chloride or table salt that was dissolved in water. Mercury was used to line the bottom of the cell so that the pure sodium that was produced would amalgamate with the mercury and not react with the water. An amalgam is a mixture of a metal and mercury. Most metals amalgamate with mercury, with a notable exception of iron that is used to transport mercury. This cell was invented in 1891, patented in 1892, and was used well into the 20th century although it is not commonly used today because we have more efficient methods for producing chlorine gas(Newton, 2010). However, another use of mercury, fluorescent bulbs, still contains mercury today. Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury gas, or a small drop of mercury, that is ignited by an electric current to produce radiation. This radiation activates a phosphor on the inside of the glass tube. The phosphor absorbs the radiation and emits light. Many companies still produce fluorescent bulbs and don’t plan on changing because mercury gas is very efficient, but the amount of mercury gas in each bulb has decreased by about 50-60% in the past years(Newton, 2010). Mercury was used in many scientific measuring instruments including thermometers, barometers and thermostats. It was used because it was a liquid...

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