Mercury powder is used in a variety of industrial and research applications such as sputtering targets, ion beam evaporation, and chemical vapor deposition. It is also useful in fuel cell and solar applications.
Mercury is a naturally occurring metal that is abundant in the Earth’s crust and is used in thermometers, barometers, manometers, sphygmomanometers, float valves, mercury switches, mercury relays and fluorescent lamps. It is one of the most toxic elements, and it can be hazardous to human health when inhaled.
Elemental (or metallic) mercury is a shiny silver-white liquid at room temperature. When heated it becomes a colorless, odorless, toxic vapor.
The element has been used for thousands of years in the preparation of red pigment vermilion from cinnabar. It is also used to produce a yellow dye called mercurous chloride.
Inorganic mercury compounds are used in medical applications, such as syphilis treatment and wound care. Children who are exposed to inorganic mercury are at risk of developing a condition known as acrodynia, or pink disease, which is characterized by profuse sweating and erythematous rashes.
Acrodynia may occur after a short period of exposure, or may occur after prolonged exposure. It is a serious condition that can cause brain damage, kidney and nervous system dysfunction, and loss of weight.
Spills of elemental mercury can be dangerous to handle, and must be cleaned up promptly. The preferred method of cleaning up a spill is to dust the spill with mercury-metal amalgam powder, which forms a solid mercury-metal amalgam that can be handled safely.