Mercury(II) nitrate

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Mercury(II) nitrate
Mercury(II) nitrate by NileRed.jpg
Nearly dry mercury(II) nitrate
IUPAC name
Mercury(II) nitrate
Other names
Citrine ointment
Mercuric nitrate
Millon's reagent
Molar mass 324.60 g/mol (anhydrous)
Appearance White solid
Odor Odorless
Density 4.3 g/cm3 (monohydrate)
Melting point monohydrate
79 °C (174 °F; 352 K)
Boiling point Decomposes
Solubility Soluble in acetone, ammonia, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid
Insoluble in alcohol, halocarbons, hydrocarbons
Vapor pressure ~0 mmHg
Safety data sheet Sigma-Aldrich (monohydrate)
Flash point Non-flammable
Related compounds
Related compounds
Zinc nitrate
Cadmium nitrate
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
Infobox references

Mercury(II) nitrate (Hg(NO3)2) is a very toxic white soluble crystalline mercury(II) salt of nitric acid. It was used in the past to treat fur to make felt in a process called "carroting". The phrase 'mad as a hatter' is associated with psychological illness brought on by excessive exposure to mercury(II) nitrate.



Mercury(II) nitrate decomposes when heated, releasing nitrogen dioxide and oxygen.

Hg(NO3)2 → HgO + 2 NO2 + ½ O2


Mercury(II) nitrate is a white solid, soluble in water and nitric acid.


Mercury(II) nitrate is sold by chemical suppliers, however, due to its hazards it's extremely difficult to get hold of.

The sale of mercury(II) nitrate, like most mercury compounds, is restricted in many countries due to it's great toxicity. Its sale in EU is banned without a proper hazardous substance permit.


Mercury(II) nitrate can be prepared by reacting elemental mercury with concentrated nitric acid. Heat speeds up the reaction.

4 HNO3 + Hg → Hg(NO3)2 + 2 NO2 + 2 H2O

To dry it, the solution is gently heated until the compound solidifies. Do not heat it too high as it will decompose.

If diluted nitric acid is used instead, mercury(I) nitrate will be formed.




Mercury(II) nitrate is extremely toxic. It can absorb through skin. Wear proper protection when handling the compound.


Mercury(II) nitrate should be stored in closed bottles, with a proper hazard label, indicating it's a dangerous compound. Plastic (PE or PP) bottlers are ideal, as they will not break if they're dropped on a hard surface, like the floor.


Mercury(II) nitrate should be converted to an insoluble form, such as mercury sulfide then taken to hazardous waste disposal centers.


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