The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 02-02-2006, 11:29 AM
NurseCarmen NurseCarmen is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: The Zen Arcade
Posts: 8,269
Does Mercury burn or boil?

If you get it hot enough? I know from a quick Google search that it boils at 357 degrees, but since it's a metal, does it also burn when it get's hot enough?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 02-02-2006, 09:29 PM
flex727 flex727 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
No.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 02-02-2006, 09:33 PM
DaveRaver DaveRaver is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Great South Bay
Posts: 699
And what about the planet Mercury?
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 02-02-2006, 09:36 PM
Epimetheus Epimetheus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Well, Mercury both burns and freezes, depending on what time of day it is, but don't know about boiling... Oh you mean the element.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 02-02-2006, 09:52 PM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 12,684
I think mercury burns although maybe not with a flame like coal does. Mercury forms an oxide and that's "burning" to me.

Mercury also boils. In our first experiment in freshman chemistry we duplicated Priestly's experiment of getting oxygen by heating mercuric oxide. Some of the people in the class heated their sample so hot that the mercury boiled.

And, of course, it freezes.

It also vaporizes.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 02-02-2006, 11:17 PM
Sublight Sublight is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Dave Simmons got there before I did. "Burning" requires combining with oxygen, while "boiling" would mean it keeps its elemental composition but just changes from a liquid to a gas. Which one it does would depend on pressure, temperature and environment.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 02-03-2006, 03:29 AM
picunurse picunurse is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Seattle
Posts: 11,521
Generally, metals that will burn end in "ium." Magnesium, Calcium, Beryllium, Strontium, Barium.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 02-03-2006, 03:36 AM
Blake Blake is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 10,207
Quote:
Originally Posted by picunurse
Generally, metals that will burn end in "ium." Magnesium, Calcium, Beryllium, Strontium, Barium.
Ironium. Tinium. Leadium.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 02-03-2006, 10:16 AM
Una Persson Una Persson is offline
Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: On the dance floor.
Posts: 14,946
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sublight
Dave Simmons got there before I did. "Burning" requires combining with oxygen, while "boiling" would mean it keeps its elemental composition but just changes from a liquid to a gas. Which one it does would depend on pressure, temperature and environment.
I think your answer is the best one overall. The amount of mercury that oxidizes before boiling will depend on such things as the partial pressure of oxygen, initial state of the mercury (pure or compounded), the ambient pressure, temperature, etc.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 02-03-2006, 11:05 AM
Sublight Sublight is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Wooo! Gold star for the liberal arts major!
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 02-03-2006, 11:08 AM
NurseCarmen NurseCarmen is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: The Zen Arcade
Posts: 8,269
So I'd be better off to say that mercury oxidizes, rather than say it burns?
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 02-03-2006, 12:41 PM
naita naita is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by NurseCarmen
So I'd be better off to say that mercury oxidizes, rather than say it burns?
That depends on what you want to say. Stuff that oxidizes _fast_ burns.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 02-03-2006, 12:43 PM
Una Persson Una Persson is offline
Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: On the dance floor.
Posts: 14,946
Quote:
Originally Posted by NurseCarmen
So I'd be better off to say that mercury oxidizes, rather than say it burns?
Some people will really debate you to the nth degree over the proper term, and depending upon your definition they may have a point. Oxidizes *may* be more what one would hear in common discussions. Even for such things as the fate of mercury in coal during the combustion of coal, people generally talk about it "oxidizing" in the 3000+ F flame, rather than "burning".
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 02-03-2006, 02:09 PM
Nametag Nametag is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: California
Posts: 7,740
Generally, we call it "burning" when the oxidation reaction produces enough heat to sustain the process -- once you touch off a piece of paper, a lump of coal, or a splint of wood, it keeps going without additional heat. When heated to near its boiling point, mercury will oxidize slowly in air -- that ain't burning. In pure oxygen? I can't find any info on that, and I've never tried it, and I dare say I never will. At high pressures? Ditto.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 02-03-2006, 02:41 PM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 12,684
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nametag
Generally, we call it "burning" when the oxidation reaction produces enough heat to sustain the process -- once you touch off a piece of paper, a lump of coal, or a splint of wood, it keeps going without additional heat. When heated to near its boiling point, mercury will oxidize slowly in air -- that ain't burning. In pure oxygen? I can't find any info on that, and I've never tried it, and I dare say I never will. At high pressures? Ditto.
Here goes some of that "nth degree" debating that Una Persson spoke of.

Generally yes. However burning is combustion and combustion is oxidation. We also speak of the body burning food.

However there is no question that mercury doesn't oxidize with the rapid evolution of heat.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:45 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.