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Metallic chemical element, chemical symbol Hg, atomic number 80. Mercury is the only elemental metal that is liquid at ordinary temperatures, with a freezing point of 38 °F (39 °C) and a boiling point of 674 °F (356.9 °C). Silvery white, dense, toxic (seemercury poisoning), and a good conductor of electricity, mercury is occasionally found free in nature but usually occurs as the red sulfide ore, cinnabar (HgS). It has many usesin dental and industrial amalgams, as a catalyst, in electrical and measuring apparatus and instruments (e.g., thermometers), as the cathode in electrolytic cells, in mercury-vapour lamps, and as a coolant and neutron absorber in nuclear power plants. Many of mercury's compounds, in which it has valence 1 or 2, are pigments, pesticides, and medicinals. It is a dangerous pollutant because it concentrates in animal tissues in increasing amounts up the food chain.
Variants of MERCURY
mercury or quicksilver
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on mercury, visit Britannica.com.