National Research Council Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Mercury

Warning Information found on this page has been archived and is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. Please visit NRC's new site for the most recent information.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats by contacting us.


80
Hg
200.59
Mercury

Mercury

The 80th element is named after the planet Mercury, but its symbol Hg comes from the Latin "hydragyrum" meaning liquid silver. Also known as "quick silver," mercury is a liquid at room temperature, making it useful for barometers and thermometers.

This liquid metal also has applications in the electronics industry due to its stability, electrical conductivity, and high density. These properties are extremely important for the optimal functioning of electrical equipment and control devices.

Interestingly, mercurous chloride is one of the oldest antiseptics known to treat infections. However, mercury is believed to pose a serious health hazard to humans and has been associated with nervousness and irritability. Consequently, it has been phased out of commercial use in North America where only industrial applications of mercury remain.

The National Research Council Canada (NRC) Institute for National Measurement Standards has recently developed technology for identification of organometallic compounds, including mercury. This technology will streamline detection of these pollutants in contaminated air, soil and water and improve the reliability of the chemical analyses.

 

Other Applications

  • Mercury vapour lamps are used in institutions.
  • Mercury fulminate is used as a detonator in explosives.