Mercury (Hg): Description, Properties, Uses & Facts

Mercury (Hg): Description, Properties, Uses & Facts

Mercury: The Liquid Metal with Mystique


Mercury, the chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80, atomic  mass 200.59u is a fascinating and enigmatic element that has intrigued scientists and alchemists for centuries. Known for its unique properties, mercury holds a special place in the periodic table and has a range of applications, both historical and modern. In this blog, we will delve into the various aspects of mercury, including its chemical properties, compounds, reactions with other elements, occurrence, production, and its diverse uses.

Chemical Properties:

Mercury is a transition metal with a characteristic silvery-white appearance, earning it the nickname "quicksilver." It has a unique property among metals – it remains in a liquid state at room temperature. This unusual feature is a result of its low melting point, making it the only metal that exists in a liquid form under normal conditions. The symbol Hg originates from the Greek word "hydrargyrum," meaning "liquid silver."

Electron Configuration and Valency:

In terms of its electron configuration, mercury follows the general pattern of transition metals. 

Electron Configuration: [Xe] 4f14 5d10 6s2  or 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d10 4s2 4p6 4d10 4f14 5s2 5p6 5d10 6s2

It has two electrons in its innermost shell, followed by 18 in the next, and 32 in the outermost shell. The valency of mercury is often considered to be +1 or +2, with a preference for forming compounds where it exhibits a divalent state.

Chemical Reactions:

Mercury is relatively unreactive with most common substances, including air and water. However, it does react with certain acids and halogens under specific conditions. For instance, mercury forms mercury(II) chloride (HgCl₂) when exposed to chlorine gas, showcasing its ability to engage in chemical reactions.

Mercury Compounds:

Mercury compounds exhibit diverse properties and applications. One notable compound is mercuric oxide (HgO), which has been historically used in the production of red pigments for paints. Another significant compound is mercuric chloride (HgCl2), a powerful antiseptic and disinfectant with historical applications in medicine.

Occurrence and Production:

Mercury occurs naturally in the Earth's crust, primarily in cinnabar ore (HgS). The main producers of mercury include countries like China, Kyrgyzstan, and Mexico. Extraction methods involve heating cinnabar, resulting in the release of mercury vapor, which is then condensed into liquid mercury.


Mercury has a long history of diverse applications. In the past, it was utilized in thermometers, barometers, and various scientific instruments. Despite its toxicity, mercury compounds were also employed in medicine. Today, its use is more controlled due to environmental and health concerns. Mercury finds applications in electrical switches, fluorescent lamps, and some industrial processes.


  • Mercury has a high density, making it a valuable element in certain scientific instruments and barometers.
  • The toxicity of mercury is well-known, and exposure can lead to severe health issues, especially through inhalation or ingestion of its compounds.
  • The phrase "mad as a hatter" has historical roots in the hat-making industry, where mercury compounds were used, causing mercury poisoning among workers.


Mercury, with its intriguing properties and historical significance, continues to captivate scientists and enthusiasts alike. From its unique liquid state to its diverse applications and historical anecdotes, mercury remains a symbol of both wonder and caution in the world of chemistry. Understanding its properties and respecting its potential hazards are essential as we continue to navigate the dynamic landscape of science and technology.

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