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What is mercury?

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Quick Answer

Mercury is a heavy, silvery metal that is liquid between -38 degrees Fahrenheit and 674 degrees Fahrenheit at normal atmospheric pressure. It is extracted by heating cinnabar, a red ore that is a compound of mercury and sulfur.

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What is mercury?
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Full Answer

Mercury is toxic in all its forms, but it still has several common uses. It is used in mercury switches, where its ability to both flow and carry electrical current is useful. Its ability to expand in a predictable manner depending on temperature and pressure makes it useful in laboratory thermometers and barometers. Alloys of mercury, called amalgams, are used in tooth fillings. Mercury's ability to amalgamate with gold makes it useful for extracting gold from its ores.

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Related Questions

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    What is the melting point of mercury?

    A:

    Mercury melts at approximately minus 38 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the densest elemental liquid known. It is the only common metal that exists as a liquid at room temperature. Its boiling point is about 674 F.

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  • Q:

    Why is mercury in a thermometer a disadvantage?

    A:

    Mercury thermometers do not work below the freezing point of mercury, which is minus 38.83 degrees Celsius or minus 37.89 degrees Fahrenheit. Mercury vapors and physical contact with mercury are very dangerous. Breakage of a mercury thermometer requires proper equipment and procedures to safely clean up and dispose of mercury spills.

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    Where does mercury come from?

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    Mercury is an element that enters the environment through human activity and natural sources. It is a natural component of the Earth’s crust; however, the majority of mercury comes from improper disposal of mercury-containing products and the burning of fossil fuels. Natural emissions of mercury occur through the erosion of rocks, eruption of volcanoes and decomposition of soil.

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    How was Mercury discovered?

    A:

    Because Mercury is one of the five visible planets to the naked eye, its original discovery is indeterminable. It was known during prehistoric times and was mentioned in the second millennium B.C. by Sumerians.

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