Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Some fun with a really obscure compound.

woelen - 6-4-2021 at 12:01

I have been experimenting with chlorite quite a few times. This time I tried something quite different with chlorite ions, making the mercury(II) salt of it. On internet, there hardly is any information on it. I tried to make the compound from a weakly acidic solution. Not too much, because chlorite ions and acid react with each other, forming ClO2. On the other hand, the solution also should not be neutral, because of the strong tendency of Hg(2+) ions to hydrolyse and form basic compounds. I think that I succeeded nicely in this.

Isolation and storing the compound is another thing. It cannot be safely stored and is so unstable, that it decomposes violently, apparently without any reason. Fortunately no accident occurred, most serious issue was having a cloud of HgCl2-smoke in my lab :o
I, however, avoided personal exposure to this cloud and could vent it outside. If I had any exposure, it must have been very small. This experiment nicely demonstrates that working with micro quantities strongly mitigates and risks. If this 'accident' would have happened with gram quantities, things could have been quite different. Below follows the web page with pictures and a description of the little 'accident'.

Bedlasky - 6-4-2021 at 17:14

I cannot open the link. Is problem on my side or your side?

njl - 6-4-2021 at 17:43

Works for me

vano - 6-4-2021 at 21:09

Works for me too

[Edited on 7-4-2021 by vano]

Bedlasky - 6-4-2021 at 21:57

Oh sorry, now it works :).

Fery - 6-4-2021 at 23:26

Hi Woelen, we are exposed to Hg without knowing. Replacing amalgam at stomatology, few mg released. Eating sea fish (depending on the area of fishing, very polluted area seems to be Baltic sea - read the info on the package where is the origin of the fish) - again some Hg intake (but still under EU limits). Vaccination - circa 1 mg of Hg in ampoule (at the time of my childhood, maybe now they use different compound in vaccines?).

Diachrynic - 7-4-2021 at 03:22

Hi woelen, another nice experiment unknown to me before.

I have looked it up in Gmelin and the description matches yours nicely, down to the red color and the spontaneous self decomposition with white smoke of HgCl2. This comes from Gmelins handbook of inorganic chemistry, mercury part B - 2 pages 696-697. It also mentions the yellow Hg(I) chlorite salt which is even less stable.

Attachment: MercuryChloriteGmelin.pdf (342kB)
This file has been downloaded 140 times

njl - 7-4-2021 at 04:53

Fery, I can't speak for slightly older generations of vaccines but modern ones contain mercury on the microgram scale, and I believe it's actually micrograms of a mercury compound so there's even less actual Hg entering the body.

EthidiumBromide - 7-4-2021 at 09:11

Mercury may not even be present in most modern vaccines (this does depend on the type of vaccine though). Thiomersal, the mercury-containing compound used as a vaccine preservative, isn't used in many vaccine formulations anymore. Other compounds, usually not containing heavy metals, are used in its place.

[Edited on 7-4-2021 by EthidiumBromide]

karlos³ - 7-4-2021 at 09:39

Quote: Originally posted by njl  
Fery, I can't speak for slightly older generations of vaccines but modern ones contain mercury on the microgram scale, and I believe it's actually micrograms of a mercury compound so there's even less actual Hg entering the body.

The issue with this was, that organomercuric compounds are far more toxic than inorganic mercury, even as their salts, more on par with inhalation of quantities of Hg vapor.
So you have to put that into relation.

Panache - 10-4-2021 at 05:41

Yeah the toxicity of the metal is hugely overstated, the body can eliminate small amounts, its not like every atom of Hg that enters you remains forever. That being said having the neat metal uncovered somewhere you frequent is not good as its vapour pressure is appreciable. Theres a solution for that problem though...its called a lid..goes on top of the flask.
Again i highly recommend googling 'injecting mercury', its pretty funny, there appears to be two sets of beliefs regarding that its instant death (its not) or its a sexual stimulant (its not especially after the surgery to open the vein the scrap out the metal....)
How are you Karlos cubed. How is your dog, still with you? 8)

edit...sorry on topic, funny you should bring up chlorite woelen, as it was only a few weeks ago i interacted with it for the first time. Its used in water purification in rural areas here. has such a interesting odour, like every chlorine compound you've ever smelt combined...but distinct.

[Edited on 10-4-2021 by Panache]

Texium - 10-4-2021 at 06:35

I hope that you put the clothes that you were wearing into the laundry and took a shower right after that happened. Wouldn’t want to track traces of HgCl2 all around your house.

Also, perhaps you should add a disclaimer at the top of your page that this experiment is not one that you would recommend repeating! In its current state, someone unsuspecting could be following it step by step without realizing there’s an explosive surprise at the end (while you say that it easily decomposes, potentially explosively, you do not clarify upfront that you experienced this firsthand with virtually no provocation).

metalresearcher - 10-4-2021 at 12:02

Interesting !
I did not know that ClO2- existed, I only knew hypochlorite ClO-, chlorate and perchlorate.

woelen - 11-4-2021 at 09:58

@Texium: You should put things in perspective. I started with 172 mg of mercury, which produces appr. 200 mg of the chlorite. In the experiment I had mechanical losses, so maybe 150 mg of the chlorite was tranferred to the vial. This material decomposed, giving a big plume of white smoke, but also quite a thick layer of frosty solid was still in the vial. It also contained some undecomposed material. Now, imagine that 100 mg made it into the air as smoke. Nearly all of it left the room through a fan and an open window (it was quite breezy that day and wind was going into the room, leaving at the open window). So, maybe a mg or 2 came into the house. We always ventilate well (we have mechanical ventilation, which is on always, in order to avoid buildup of radon and to keep air fresh inside the house). So, I do not worry. Inorganic mercury indeed is toxic, but a dose of a mg or so does no big harm. Other exposure (e.g. from dentistry, eating certain fish) is comparable, so I consider this as an extra dose of that order of magnitude. Not good, but also not devastating.

But I will change the webpage and put a warning at the start, stating that I experienced unexpected fast decomposition with a plume of HgCl2 released into the air and that the experiment should not be scaled up.

Texium - 11-4-2021 at 10:29

Fair enough. It is good to clearly post that warning though, since many people who follow your procedures likely do not have as good ventilation as you, or may try to scale things up without thinking of the consequences.

woelen - 12-4-2021 at 12:19

Changed the webpage, added a warning at the start.

Mateo_swe - 18-4-2021 at 04:41

Very nice website you have made, Woelen.
I will try some of those experiments.
Maybe not the Mercury(II) chlorite one but there are several other ones that seem interesting and fun.

ChemTalk - 26-4-2021 at 09:24

great story and procedure, thanks for sharing. Mercury compounds always have such interesting colors.

Here's an interesting page mentioning mercuric chlorite as an explosive