Mercury Facts

Mercury Chemical & Physical Properties

Mercury is a heavy silvery metal that is liquid at room temperature.
Mercury is a heavy silvery metal that is liquid at room temperature. videophoto / Getty Images

Mercury is the only metallic element that is a liquid at room temperature. This dense metal is atomic number 80 with element symbol Hg. This collection of mercury facts includes atomic data, the electron configuration, chemical and physical properties, and history of the element.

Mercury Basic Facts

Mercury Electron Configuration

Short Form: [Xe]4f145d106s2
Long Form
: 1s22s22p63s23p63d104s24p64d105s25p64f145d106s2
Shell Structure:
2 8 18 32 18 2

Mercury Discovery

Discovery Date: Known to the ancient Hindus and Chinese. Mercury has been found in Egyptian tombs dating to 1500 B.C.
Name: Mercury derives its name from the association between the planet Mercury and its use in alchemy. The alchemical symbol for mercury was the same for the metal and the planet. The element symbol, Hg, is derived from the Latin name 'hydragyrum' meaning "water silver".

Mercury Physical Data

State at room temperature (300 K): Liquid
Appearance: heavy silvery white metal
Density: 13.546 g/cc (20 °C)
Melting Point: 234.32 K (-38.83 °C or -37.894 °F)
Boiling Point: 629.88 K (356.73 °C or 674.11 °F)
Critical Point: 1750 K at 172 MPa
Heat of Fusion: 2.29 kJ/mol
Heat of Vaporization: 59.11 kJ/mol
Molar Heat Capacity: 27.983 J/mol·K
Specific Heat: 0.138 J/g·K (at 20 °C)

Mercury Atomic Data

Oxidation States: +2 , +1
Electronegativity: 2.00
Electron Affinity: not stable
Atomic Radius: 1.32 Å
Atomic Volume: 14.8 cc/mol
Ionic Radius: 1.10 Å (+2e) 1.27 Å (+1e)
Covalent Radius: 1.32 Å
Van der Waals Radius: 1.55 Å
First Ionization Energy: 1007.065 kJ/mol
Second Ionization Energy: 1809.755 kJ/mol
Third Ionization Energy: 3299.796 kJ/mol

Mercury Nuclear Data

Number of isotopes: There are 7 naturally occurring isotopes of mercury..
Isotopes and % abundance: 196Hg (0.15), 198Hg (9.97), 199Hg (198.968), 200Hg (23.1), 201Hg (13.18), 202Hg (29.86) and 204Hg (6.87)

Mercury Crystal Data

Lattice Structure: Rhombohedral
Lattice Constant: 2.990 Å
Debye Temperature: 100.00 K

Mercury Uses

Mercury is amalgamated with gold to facilitate the recovery of gold from its ores. Mercury is used to make thermometers, diffusion pumps, barometers, mercury vapor lamps, mercury switches, pesticides, batteries, dental preparations, antifouling paints, pigments, and catalysts. Many of the salts and organic mercury compounds are important.

Miscellaneous Mercury Facts

  • Mercury compounds with the +2 oxidation states are known as 'mercuric' in older texts. Example: HgCl2 was known as mercuric chloride.
  • Mercury compounds with the +1 oxidation state are known as 'mercurous' in older texts. Example: Hg2Cl2 was known as mercurous chloride.
  • Mercury is rarely found free in nature. Mercury is harvested from cinnabar (mercury(I) sulfide - HgS). It is extracted by heating the ore and collecting the mercury vapor produced.
  • Mercury is also known by the name 'quicksilver'.
  • Mercury is one of the few elements that is liquid at ordinary room temperatures.
  • Mercury and its compounds are highly poisonous. Mercury is readily absorbed across unbroken skin or though the respiratory or gatroinstestinal tract. It acts as a cumulative poison.
  • Mercury is very volatile in air. When room temperature air (20°C) is saturated with mercury vapor, the concentration greatly exceeds the toxic limit. The concentration, and thus the danger, increases at higher temperatures.
  • Early alchemists believed all metals contained varying amounts of mercury. Mercury was used in many experiments to transmute one metal into another.
  • Chinese alchemists believed mercury promoted health and extended life and included it with several medicines.
  • Mercury readily forms alloys with other metals, called amalgams. The term amalgam literally means 'alloy of mercury' in Latin.
  • An electrical discharge will cause mercury to combine with the noble gases argon, krypton, neon, and xenon.
  • Mercury is one of the heavy metals. Many metals have a higher density than mercury, yet are not considered to be heavy metals. This is because heavy metals are both extremely dense and highly toxic.


  • Eisler, R. (2006). Mercury hazards to living organisms. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-9212-2.
  • Greenwood, Norman N.; Earnshaw, Alan (1997). Chemistry of the Elements (2nd ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 0-08-037941-9.
  • Lide, D. R., ed. (2005). CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (86th ed.). Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-0486-5.
  • Norrby, L.J. (1991). "Why is mercury liquid? Or, why do relativistic effects not get into chemistry textbooks?". Journal of Chemical Education. 68 (2): 110. doi:10.1021/ed068p110
  • Weast, Robert (1984). CRC, Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. Boca Raton, Florida: Chemical Rubber Company Publishing. pp. E110. ISBN 0-8493-0464-4.

Return to the Periodic Table

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Mercury Facts." ThoughtCo, Jun. 25, 2021, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2021, June 25). Mercury Facts. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Mercury Facts." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).