Making Mercury (Part 1) | Summary and Q&A

May 14, 2017
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Making Mercury (Part 1)


In this video, the presenter demonstrates a chemical method of extracting mercury from mercury sulfide waste, ensuring safety and efficiency.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why is cinnabar no longer used as a pigment?

Cinnabar, or red mercury sulfide, was widely used as a pigment in the past for paints and cosmetics. However, due to its toxicity, it has been largely replaced by synthetic pigments.

Q: What are the dangers of using the thermal method to extract mercury from mercury sulfide?

The thermal method involves heating mercury sulfide in the presence of oxygen, causing the mercury to vaporize. This mercury vapor can be highly dangerous, as it can be inhaled and cause mercury poisoning.

Q: Why is the chemical method of extracting mercury safer?

The chemical method involves using substances like iron or zinc to chemically reduce the mercury sulfide back to metallic mercury. This method does not produce mercury vapor, making it safer to work with.

Q: What are the potential downsides of the chemical method?

The chemical method produces a significant amount of mercury-contaminated waste that needs to be properly disposed of. Additionally, the polysulfide solution used can react with other metals present, leading to purification challenges.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Mercury sulfide, commonly known as cinnabar, is the most common form of naturally occurring mercury. It can exist in two major forms: alpha (red) and beta (black).

  • The heating process can convert beta mercury sulfide to the more common red form, which was historically used as a pigment but has been phased out due to toxicity concerns.

  • Two major methods of extracting mercury metal from mercury sulfide are thermal (with oxygen) and chemical (using substances like iron or zinc), with the chemical method being safer due to a lack of mercury vapor production.

  • The presenter demonstrates a modified version of the chemical method using a polysulfide solution made from sodium hydroxide and sulfur, which is more accessible to amateurs.

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