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Author: Subject: Dense, metallic liquid - supposed mercury - hit or shit?
Diachrynic
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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 08:51
Dense, metallic liquid - supposed mercury - hit or shit?


Today I found in the shed in an old shelf a jar with a very dense, metallic liquid, which got me excited and a bit terrified - did I find some old mercury? The jar was unlabeled though, so I'm completely unaware of what it's backstory is.

So, I am pretty sure it is mercury - is there any other dense, metallic liquid?

It not shiny; not at all. Pprobably highly contaminated with other stuff.

I live in Germany. I didn't find anything about mercury being illegal, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Now, my question is: Can a moron like me with two left hands handle it safely? If, then how? Or better bring it to a disposal facility? Is it worth the effort to purify it because it's really impossible to get here?

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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 09:05


That's mercury. It does tend to get scummy over time. IIRC, the preferred way to clean it is to let it drip through a pinhole in a filter paper cone into a clean container. The oxides stick to the paper.
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S.C. Wack
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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 09:14


And things dissolved in it can be removed chemically without difficulty. Most people handle it like plutonium so we're sure you'll be fine as long as the authorities are not interested in this shed.



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Diachrynic
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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 09:30


Thanks, so it is mercury.

Filtering it through a pinhole seems like a good idea.

What would be a chemical way to clean it? HCl?

Also, how do I protect myself from the fumes? Gloves, lab coat, that's fine, but do I need a respirator or something?

I need to buy a container for the mercury contaminated waste...




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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 09:39




Mercury Poisoning

Metallic Mercury = Not benign, but can be handled by a careful person with little danger. Has been handled, prodded, poked bare handed and generally oogled at by many people, including school children in my youth- AT SCHOOL. We floated the junior high school science teacher's Gold wedding ring in a jar of it for fun, he put it back on again after. No discernible consequences in the next 4 years I was at that school...

Water soluble inorganic mercury salts = Rather more dangerous, but still can be handled and used CAREFULLY by a competent amateur, an ethical person will have a procedure in place for disposing properly of any waste from use. NOT just dumping it down the drain or pouring it out in a field...

Organic mercury compounds = can be VERY dangerous. Some can go right through common nitril gloves, the Plutonium reputation comes largely from this class. Industrial users have had some serious problems with large and enduring consequences. Probably not wise for most amateurs, how good is your hood and where does the exhaust go?

For some background, Google: Minimata, Niigata, Basra poison grain disaster, "mad hatter", "Isaac Newton Mercury poisoning".

[Edited on 24-11-2017 by Bert]

[Edited on 24-11-2017 by Bert]




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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 09:42


Quote: Originally posted by Diachrynic  
Today I found in the shed in an old shelf a jar with a very dense, metallic liquid, which got me excited and a bit terrified - did I find some old mercury? The jar was unlabeled though, so I'm completely unaware of what it's backstory is.

So, I am pretty sure it is mercury - is there any other dense, metallic liquid?


The low melting metals are 3 groups:
alkali metal eutectics;
Ga alloys;
Hg and alloys.
Activity and density are grossly different.
Density of alkali metals tops at 1,9 of caesium. And that´s very reactive with air and water. NaK and anything that is mostly Na or K would also be less dense than water.

Ga density is near 6. Pure metal freezes at 30 degrees, alloys lower.
Hg density is around 13,5.

These 3 liquids are not mutually miscible. With larger amounts of impurities, Hg forms solid amalgams.

So detecting difference between Hg and Ga? More than double the difference in density. And Ga wets glass, Hg does not.
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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 09:42


Nitric acid.
https://www.sciencemadness.org/whisper/viewthread.php?tid=10...
You've been exposed to mercury vapor before if you've broken fluorescent lights. Do not heat.




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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 09:55


Quote: Originally posted by S.C. Wack  
Nitric acid.
https://www.sciencemadness.org/whisper/viewthread.php?tid=10...
You've been exposed to mercury vapor before if you've broken fluorescent lights. Do not heat.


DILUTE nitric acid, SHORT contact time. Best specify?

I have dissolved metallic Mercury in 68% Nitric acid (first step in a Mercury fulminate synthesis). Did not take long.




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Diachrynic
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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 10:39


Unfortunately I don't have any nitric acid yet (but I plan do make some, someday).

Is there an alternative?




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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 10:53


It will dissolve in hot concentrated sulfuric acid.



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Diachrynic
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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 11:47


Yeah, but I don't want to dissolve the mercury. I want to clean it by dissolving the impurities and leaving the mercury behind.
That way I think I can avoid mercury salts for now. As Bert wrote, it's metallic form is safer that its salts, so I try to avoid those for now.

Also, I don't have sulfuric acid. Anyone knows a good source of sulfuric acid in Germany?




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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 11:50


Quote: Originally posted by chornedsnorkack  
Quote: Originally posted by Diachrynic  
Today I found in the shed in an old shelf a jar with a very dense, metallic liquid, which got me excited and a bit terrified - did I find some old mercury? The jar was unlabeled though, so I'm completely unaware of what it's backstory is.

So, I am pretty sure it is mercury - is there any other dense, metallic liquid?


The low melting metals are 3 groups:
alkali metal eutectics;
Ga alloys;
Hg and alloys.
Activity and density are grossly different.
Density of alkali metals tops at 1,9 of caesium. And that´s very reactive with air and water. NaK and anything that is mostly Na or K would also be less dense than water.

Ga density is near 6. Pure metal freezes at 30 degrees, alloys lower.
Hg density is around 13,5.

These 3 liquids are not mutually miscible. With larger amounts of impurities, Hg forms solid amalgams.

So detecting difference between Hg and Ga? More than double the difference in density. And Ga wets glass, Hg does not.

And the first category is very light. NaK has a density of only 0.86 but is very reactive, more than individual Na or K.
ScienceMadness has a video with a gun shooting bullets of Na, K or NaK wrapped in plastic, real fun !

You can clean Hg with a method by a NileRed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ubw1bI8s5w





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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 12:46


If you want to clean it chemically, some HCl or dilute H2SO4 will be good enough. The pinhole is the simplest physical method IMO.

[Edited on 11-23-2017 by ninhydric1]




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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 12:51


A logical way to clean more active metal impurities out of mercury is displacement by mercury salts. Like:
Cu+Hg2(NO3)2=Cu(NO3)2+2Hg
But that leaves the less active metals.
How are impurities of less active metals removed from mercury? The appreciably (though to a small degree) soluble less active metals in liquid Hg at low temperatures are Ag and Au. So how do you separate Ag and Au impurities? Especially Ag? It has reactivity close to that of Hg, so what would dissolve just one?
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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 15:55


Distill your mercury away from the impurities.
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[*] posted on 23-11-2017 at 16:28


Quote: Originally posted by hyfalcon  
Distill your mercury away from the impurities.

Nice. But not for the inexperienced or faint of heart. And definitely not an area where you want to skimp on good equipment.

I understand that putting a cotton ball in a syringe and forcing the mercury through that is an effective way of filtering. You then want to have a means for disposing of your filter material. That opens up a whole new bunch of issues.
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[*] posted on 24-11-2017 at 00:14


Distilling is not an option. I have quite some experience with chemical experimenting and also with distillations, but distilling mercury in a home/amateur setting is beyond reasonable. Only VERY few amateurs can do that safely.

If you don't have HNO3, nor H2SO4, then you can use high quality dilute acetic acid (not spiced and sweeted vinegar!) with a tiny amount amount of H2O2 and drip your mercury in that. Take a coffee filter, make a tiny hole in it and carefully drip the mercury in that filter and let the drops fall into the dilute acetic acid with a few tenths of percent of H2O2. Around 5% concentration of acid is OK.

Most of the solid crap on the surface of the mercury then remains behind in the filter, the droplets of mercury fall through the dilute acetic acid and some metallic impurities dissolve. Also more crap which still sticks to the droplets dissolves. Let the metal sit at the bottom. You can lso store it in this way. Simply pipette away 95% or so of the aqueous layer with the acid, then replace with distilled water and store it that way. The metal then remains shiny and no vapor of mercury is released.

I would strongly advice you to work with the mercury above a big plastic tub. If you accidently spill droplets, then they do not fall onto your desk, onto the floor and so on. Having droplets of mercury, contaminating your house is disastrous, it is VERY VERY hard to cleanup these droplets. They break aprt in a zillion nearly invisible droplets which go into every wrinkle or crack of your floor, wood, concrete or whatever it falls on.




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[*] posted on 24-11-2017 at 08:13


Quote: Originally posted by Diachrynic  
What would be a chemical way to clean it? HCl?

Quote: Originally posted by S.C. Wack  
Nitric acid.
https://www.sciencemadness.org/whisper/viewthread.php?tid=10...

Quote: Originally posted by Bert  
DILUTE nitric acid, SHORT contact time. Best specify?


My bad for not providing any hint as to how one might proceed, might as well delete my post then. Should I scan the book it came from and post that too? It was my impression that prior permanganate treatment was essential, but not mentioning that at all is OK? (It makes the mercury finely divided, if nothing else.)

Brauer implies that some dissolving of mercury in nitric acid is not necessarily undesirable. Furthermore, a yes we can conc. sulfuric and air setup is drawn in both the German and English versions.

Battery electrolyte can be concentrated without fumes in the oven by gradual heating until it probably starts to darken i.e. from low 30's to 70-80's %, in ovenware or a borosilicate beaker I'd set on cast iron.




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[*] posted on 24-11-2017 at 17:45


Mercury can also be refined (purified) electrolytically. That might be a relatively non-hazardous means to purify it, since it does not require heating and should get rid of non-noble impurities.
However, it does involved soluble mercury salts.




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[*] posted on 25-11-2017 at 02:56


How efficient is Fe in reducing soluble Hg salts to metallic Hg?

Also, how good solvent for Hg is cold dilute H2SO4 with hydrogen peroxide?
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[*] posted on 25-11-2017 at 03:59


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