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The Kid Should See This

Sculpting in Solid Mercury using Liquid Nitrogen

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This “eerily beautiful science experiment” from PopSci and Boing Boing shares how shapes can be formed with solid mercury… just keep them at –320°F. From science author Theodore Gray in 2009:

“We think mercury is a liquid metal, but it’s all relative. At one temperature, the mercury atoms arrange themselves into a solid crystal; at another, they flow freely around each other as a liquid…”

pouring the liquid mercury

“At liquid-nitrogen temperature, about –320°F, mercury acts like any other metal: You can hammer it, file it, saw it. (It won’t shatter like other liquid-nitrogen-frozen items because there’s not enough moisture inside.) Watching it solidify is exactly like watching tin harden from a molten state. As the atoms go from liquid to solid crystal form, you see the surface pucker. And because mercury, like most metals, shrinks when it solidifies, you see the surface sink in areas, forming a patchwork characteristic of cast metal.”

solid mercury fish
We love seeing examples of the elements’ different freezing and melting points. And because of mercury’s toxicity, this one is especially interesting to observe from afar.

Watch these videos next on TKSST:
What happens to balloon animals in liquid nitrogen?
Filling a Pythagoras Cup (Greedy Cup) with Mercury
• Aluminum + Mercury = Aluminum amalgam

Bonus: Theodore Gray’s Periodic Table Table: A rare collection of elements.

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