When an object is placed in liquid, they exert an upward force on the object. It is known as buoyant force. Archimedes’ Principle states that the buoyancy force of an object; is equal to the weight of the fluid that the object displaces. Now it means that if the object is less dense than the fluid, will float. Mercury one of the fascinating examples of metallic elements becomes liquid at room temperature.
Mercury is incredibly dense metal. It means that when a heavy object is placed on its liquid surface, it floats.
Which Objects Can Float on Mercury?
Mercury is a metallic element with a density of 13.5 grams per cubic centimeter. It makes 0.49 pounds per cubic inch. It means that the mercury is 13 times denser than the water. Now, what do we get from here? It means that the objects that sink in the water, will float on the mercury. This includes the pieces of lead, silver, iron, and steel. But the pieces of gold will since in the mercury because of higher density than mercury.
What Happens If Mercury Touches Gold?
Almost, all of the elements can combine with mercury to form an alloy. This process is known as amalgamation. In the amalgamation process, the mercury breaks gold’s structural bonds and forms an allow at low temperatures. The same process happens with other metals like zinc, potassium, aluminum, and tin. If you are dealing with mercury, only the finest jewelry should be worn, gloves, and other protection, because mercury is poisonous.
For experimentation, buy some Gold Leaf from Amazon. Cut one of the pages and put it in a bowl. Start adding mercury in drops. The mercury drops started battling and ended up in a stalemate. If you let it sit for an hour, the whole gold would eventually be pulled in. Mercury sucks all the gold leaf. Now if you start adding more gold leaf, it will for a thicker blob.
The dense blob becomes solid enough that you can squish it together like a lump of clay. You can mold it too. After that, you can squeeze out the liquid mercury from the blob and have a gold amalgam. This process is also used to refine and purify the gold. To extract the gold, the gold amalgam is added into a concentrated nitric acid. The nitric acid does not react with the gold, and dissolved mercury into soluble.
How Do You Recover Gold from Mercury?
Getting gold is not easy. 15 million small-scale artisanal miners around the globe risk their lives every day. They are not only working in hazardous conditions but also, are exposed to toxic chemicals. Gold is extracted from the ore by the majority of artisanal miners using mercury. The safer and cleaner alternative practices and technologies also exist among artisanal miners. They ignore the threats that mercury poses to human health. Lack of capacity, funds, and incentives should be adopted for better mining practices.
The GEF Gold Program
To help artisanal gold miners phase out the use of mercury in gold mining and reduce negative risks to their health and the environment. The GEF recently approved the Global Opportunities for Long-Term Development (GOLD) program in the artisanal gold mining sector. This is a small program as part of the work of the GEF in the chemicals and wastes focal area.
Under the GOLD program, the GEF provides funds in countries with a significant gold mining sector and where many artisanal miners still depend on mercury for gold mining. GEF funding for the GOLD initiative stands at $45.2 million and is expected to attract co-funding of over $135.1 million from the government budget, international financial institutions, and private companies.
With these funds, governments support artisanal and small-scale businesses by creating market incentives and policies and connecting them to international markets and supply chains that favor gold that uses less or no mercury in its extraction. The program will create strong partnerships with the private sector, including major jewelers, electronics manufacturers, and gold refiners.
The funds will be administered by four implementing agencies, including the United Nations Environment Program, the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and Conservation International to implement projects in Burkina Faso, Peru, Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya, Mongolia, Guyana, and the Philippines.
Amazing Facts About Mercury
- Mercury is the only metal that is in liquid form at standard room temperature and pressure
- It has very high surface tension. It forms rounded beads of liquid at room temperature.
- Mercury and all its compounds are highly toxic. In history, it is considered therapeutic.
- The modern symbol of mercury is Hg. Hg is another name for mercury known as hydrargyrum.
- Hydrargyrum comes from the Greek word meaning water-silver. Hydra means water ad Argyros means silver.
- Mercury is a rare element in Earth’s crust. Only 0.08 parts per million are found in the mineral cinnabar. Mineral cinnabar is also known as the mercuric sulfide.
- Mercuric sulfide is a source of the red pigment called vermilion.
- Why aren’t you allowed to carry mercury on the aircraft? The reason is that it combines with aluminum. Aluminum is a common metal on aircraft. Mercury forms an amalgam with aluminum. It forms an oxide layer that protects aluminum and disrupts oxidizing. The corrodes the aluminum in the same way as iron rusts.
- Mercury does not react with most of the acids.
- Mercury is a poor conductor of heat. It is a mild conductor of electric current.
- Mercury element is named after the Roman god Mercury. It is the only element to retain its name in this modern era.
- It was known to ancient civilizations in 2,000 BC.
- Mercury is used in fluorescent lamps thermometers, dental amalgams, in medicine, for chemical production, liquid mirrors, float valves, etc.
- Mercury (II) Fulminate is used as a primer in firearms because of its explosive property.
What Are the Damages Caused by Mercury?
In mining, mercury is used to recover the smaller pieces of gold that are mixed in the soil and sediments. As mentioned above, mercury and gold combine and settle to form an amalgam. Gold then extracted using mercury. The mercury is then vaporized using different chemicals.
Mercury, a naturally occurring element, can be highly toxic to humans, animals, and environments. If it is not handled properly, it damages the nervous, digestive, and immune systems on high exposure and inhalation. Mercury contaminates water bodies such as fish and shellfish.
When ingested, mercury can build up in living organisms and cause serious damage to the nervous system after reaching high levels. In humans, this disease is known as Minamata disease, named after a city in Japan where it was first observed in humans and animals. It was caused by the ingestion of fish and shellfish laden with mercury and captured in Minamata Bay.
The most notable symptoms of the disease are seizures, loss of muscle coordination, and damage to vision, speech, and hearing. Pregnant women exposed to mercury can also give birth to babies with congenital diseases.
An object being less dense than mercury will always float, remain buoyant, and does not sink. Gold sinks in the mercury because of its higher density. Most of the mining organizations are using the mercury amalgam process to mine, refine and purify the gold.