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Author: Subject: Do you think Tilt Switches are a viable way for the amateur chemist to obtain Mercury metal?
PyroPlatinum
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[*] posted on 17-1-2019 at 20:11
Do you think Tilt Switches are a viable way for the amateur chemist to obtain Mercury metal?


Hi folks. So, today i came across a ebay ad of "Mercury Tilt Switches" like the ones in the attached photo. It's about 1 dollar for 10 of these in a pack. The seller is from China (Oh surprise) and he doesn't mention the weight but it's dimensions are: "Length: 13 ±1mm l Diameter: 4-5mm".
So. I'm thinking to buy some of it, because i don't need a large amount of mercury. Just a bit for some reactions. It's dirty cheap so i thought about buying 10 packs. (Get a discount too for each more pack).
Do you guys think it's a viable source of mercury?
And, concerning impurities. I'm thinking and... if it might not be real mercury but instead a different metal or alloy, like Gallistan, and Gallium, or even a amalgam? (to make it less expensive to manufacture)
What do you think? Maybe it's a bad ideia, or a viable way of obtaining a little of mercury metal.

s-l400.jpg - 15kB

[Edited on 18-1-2019 by PyroPlatinum]

[Edited on 18-1-2019 by PyroPlatinum]
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[*] posted on 17-1-2019 at 20:18


Considering the price, I say go for it. You will either get what you want, or learn something new.

Regarding telling the difference between galinstan and mercury, density would be by far the easiest way to check. Having never held a tilt switch, I don't know this for certain, but you might even be able to notice just by holding one.




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[*] posted on 17-1-2019 at 20:18


Yep, those are excellent sources of mercury (think of them as pre-ampouled). If you do a little searching you will find many forum members have come to the same conclusion as you. Also, mercury is by far cheaper than gallium/gallinstan so it's impossible for it to be that. Additionally, gallium and its alloys wet glass and so the tilt switch would soon become useless.
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[*] posted on 17-1-2019 at 20:20


Quote: Originally posted by Deathunter88  
Also, mercury is by far cheaper than gallium/gallinstan so it's impossible for it to be that. Additionally, gallium and its alloys wet glass and so the tilt switch would soon become useless.


That too. Still, galinstan would be rather nice to have OTC... I wonder if there are any consumer applications where it replaced mercury? Thermometers, maybe?




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[*] posted on 17-1-2019 at 20:26


I have a bottle of Hg but it needs cleaning. I have not done it because I have not gotten into mercury chemistry yet.

But when I do, I will crack open one of my tilt switches first. It will give me a small experimental quantity of high purity metal. Definitely the way to go.
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[*] posted on 17-1-2019 at 20:35


Wow that's some really nice news then! I'm think i'm gonna risk some dollars lol if it arrives as promised i think i'm going to have a good source of this precious metal. The sad part is that it takes a century for it to arrive. But it's from the other side of the world and it's free shipping so i think it's fair enough and worth it.
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PyroPlatinum
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[*] posted on 17-1-2019 at 20:40


Quote: Originally posted by Deathunter88  
Also, mercury is by far cheaper than gallium/gallinstan so it's impossible for it to be that. Additionally, gallium and its alloys wet glass and so the tilt switch would soon become useless.

Very interesting. I didn't know about that. I thought gallium was more cheaper than mercury XD. And more interesting is about this interaction with the glass. You mean it can dissolve glass?
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[*] posted on 17-1-2019 at 20:46


Quote: Originally posted by j_sum1  
I have a bottle of Hg but it needs cleaning. I have not done it because I have not gotten into mercury chemistry yet.

But when I do, I will crack open one of my tilt switches first. It will give me a small experimental quantity of high purity metal. Definitely the way to go.

How do you plan to clean it? By distillation? I think NileRed has a video about this subject on YouTube.
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[*] posted on 17-1-2019 at 20:57


Filter first. Then see how it looks. The main contaminants will be oxides.

But filtering produces Hg waste. So then a recovery process, probably via nitric acid and reduction - which should produce reasonably clean metal.

I like Nile's mercury videos.
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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 00:18


I have purchased a lot of these mercury switches. I searched the ones with the biggest currents. I once found an offer for 0.8 A switches, these contain a somewhat larger blob of mercury, but also are a little more expensive (appr. $0.20 per piece). Just search eBay for "mercury switch" and you'll get many of them listed.

They contain small blobs (appr. 2 mm for the smaller ones, appr. 3 mm for the larger ones) and indeed they are very nice for experiments. If you dissolve a single blob of 2 mm you can do a few experiments at reagent tube scale and you can finish all of the mercury in one set of experiments, having no need to store mercury-based reagents besides your store of switches.
In total I purchased more than 100 of these switches, spending maybe EUR 20 in total. This gives me more than enough mercury for many years to come.
You can dissolve a single blob in 1 ml of 50% HNO3 and use the solution as is, or neutralize it somewhat with Na2CO3 or NaOH.
There is one issue I had, it appears to be quite difficult to get pure mercury(II) solutions. My solutions seemed to contain some mercury(I) besides mercury(II). Maybe you need more concentrated HNO3 or you should use hot HNO3, or after dissolving you add a single drop of 30% H2O2 to the still strongly acidic solution and heat this to boiling to oxidize all mercury, and get rid of the excess H2O2.




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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 04:40


Mercury displacement relays, and a few tilt switches! Old boat bilge pump floats where 5g mercury apxly

P6010291.JPG - 1.3MB
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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 06:36


I have used the mercury tilt switches in the original post for harvesting the mercury for small reactions.
They are quite cheap and worth it if your project is small.

From memory, you get about 6-7 grams from four bags of 10 switches.

[Edited on 18-1-2019 by greenlight]




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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 10:36


If you live in Europe you can easily find a lot of mercury from Spain.

Big mining industry + cinabar = plenty of opportunities.
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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 11:56


Quote: Originally posted by j_sum1  
Filter first. Then see how it looks. The main contaminants will be oxides.


Probably.

Quote: Originally posted by j_sum1  
But filtering produces Hg waste. So then a recovery process, probably via nitric acid and reduction - which should produce reasonably clean metal.


Makes sense. I think for me, only a simple cleaning of the oxides is sufficient... i don't need 100% pure stuff for my purposes XD. I would then store it in a flask under argon to minimize corrosion of the metal.

Quote: Originally posted by j_sum1  
I like Nile's mercury videos.

Yeah i like it too! My favorite Chemists on YouTube are NurdRage, NileRed, and ChemPlayer. But unfortunately YouTube took down ChemPlayer's channel ;(

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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 12:13


Quote: Originally posted by woelen  
I have purchased a lot of these mercury switches. I searched the ones with the biggest currents. I once found an offer for 0.8 A switches, these contain a somewhat larger blob of mercury, but also are a little more expensive (appr. $0.20 per piece). Just search eBay for "mercury switch" and you'll get many of them listed.

They contain small blobs (appr. 2 mm for the smaller ones, appr. 3 mm for the larger ones) and indeed they are very nice for experiments. If you dissolve a single blob of 2 mm you can do a few experiments at reagent tube scale and you can finish all of the mercury in one set of experiments, having no need to store mercury-based reagents besides your store of switches.
In total I purchased more than 100 of these switches, spending maybe EUR 20 in total. This gives me more than enough mercury for many years to come.
You can dissolve a single blob in 1 ml of 50% HNO3 and use the solution as is, or neutralize it somewhat with Na2CO3 or NaOH.
There is one issue I had, it appears to be quite difficult to get pure mercury(II) solutions. My solutions seemed to contain some mercury(I) besides mercury(II). Maybe you need more concentrated HNO3 or you should use hot HNO3, or after dissolving you add a single drop of 30% H2O2 to the still strongly acidic solution and heat this to boiling to oxidize all mercury, and get rid of the excess H2O2.


Hmmm I'm gonna try to find these bigger ones. The more the better! Lol.
I think that is better economically for me too because buying it here from directly the chemical store is a total rip off.

Did you weight one of these switches you bought?

Well, i think i would only store it for a while before using. I don't like having toxic soluble salts around when they are not in need. I make only when i know i'm gonna use it. Just in case XD.

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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 12:22


Quote: Originally posted by XeonTheMGPony  
Mercury displacement relays, and a few tilt switches! Old boat bilge pump floats where 5g mercury apxly


Holy moly, that's a damn bigger ampoule of mercury. Where do i find those? They are more expensive i presume. Or not so much?
Looks even better as a source of Mercury.
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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 12:29


Quote: Originally posted by greenlight  
I have used the mercury tilt switches in the original post for harvesting the mercury for small reactions.
They are quite cheap and worth it if your project is small.

From memory, you get about 6-7 grams from four bags of 10 switches.

[Edited on 18-1-2019 by greenlight]


From 4 bags? I expected a little more... hmm but not terribly bad tough..
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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 12:35


Quote: Originally posted by Herr Haber  
If you live in Europe you can easily find a lot of mercury from Spain.

Big mining industry + cinabar = plenty of opportunities.


America.. :/
I didn't know Spain was a big producer of mercury. Must be good for the economy.
Here we have large quantities of titanium dioxide. But the metal it's still expensive though.
Disappointing...
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PyroPlatinum
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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 12:45


First i was thinking about harvesting mercury from thermometers and fluorescent bulbs... but i soon realized that light bulbs is a terrible ideia as it contains very little quantities and contamination from that white stuff (phosphorus?) and had the risk of cutting myself trying to smash that open.
And thermometers i still think it's also not economically viable... too much money for too little mercury. But might be useful in last resort.. or if you have a box of used thermometers lol.
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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 13:51


Mercury contactors, also known as mercury displacement relays, are a great source for larger small quantities of mercury. The one I took apart had 51 g, and you can get them for around $10-20 on eBay. They are fairly easy to open with a pipe cutter and because they are made from metal you do not have to worry about picking out broken glass from your mercury. Here are some examples of what I am talking about : https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_nkw=mercury+c...

[Edited on 18-1-2019 by Plunkett]
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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 14:09


Keep your eyes open for an old sphygmomanometer - those mercury folled things used to measure blood pressure. They contain 50g or more.
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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 15:15


Quote: Originally posted by Plunkett  
Mercury contactors, also known as mercury displacement relays, are a great source for larger small quantities of mercury. The one I took apart had 51 g, and you can get them for around $10-20 on eBay. They are fairly easy to open with a pipe cutter and because they are made from metal you do not have to worry about picking out broken glass from your mercury. Here are some examples of what I am talking about : https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_nkw=mercury+c...

[Edited on 18-1-2019 by Plunkett]


Pretty cool. But they are more expensive and don't have free shipping lol. But thank you anyways. Gonna keep that in mind as a option! And about the broken glass.. i think a glass cutter would do the job without a big mess by using it to cut around the tube and easily opening it.
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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 15:21


Quote: Originally posted by j_sum1  
Keep your eyes open for an old sphygmomanometer - those mercury folled things used to measure blood pressure. They contain 50g or more.

Interesting. Gonna search for it while i can! Unfortunately mercury thermometers and sphygmomanometers are now forbidden here where i live since 01/01/2019 because of a new law related to environment contamination and health concerns.
I think that if i take a look now i will be able to find some that were discarded for this reason.
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[*] posted on 18-1-2019 at 20:48


Try not to double post, mate.

If you can find it, I made a question thread on tilt switchs a long while back, there might be some useful information there.




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[*] posted on 19-1-2019 at 01:43


the mercury i have came from my grandma's broken spygmomanometer, i don't know if there are models with 50g of mercury in it, mine had 8 grams.
this was the model i got


sphygmomanometer-meter-500x500.jpg - 46kB





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