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Topic: Mercury or Something Else?  (Read 2164 times)

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markdon

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Mercury or Something Else?
« on: October 28, 2018, 02:37:48 PM »
Hello,

Since my father died, I have been going through his things, and I found what looks like a small bottle of mercury.  I was wondering if anyone on this forum could help me identify this material.  If it is mercury, I'd like to dispose of it properly.  The bottle is made of thick glass and is marked "E 3."  It feels heavy.  The color of the liquid is grey, unlike what I understand to be the color of mercury, but it may have some sort of dusty film on the surface.  When I shake the bottle, it flashes silver.  My father was a mechanical designer from the 60's through the 90's.  I was wondering if this liquid has some sort of mechanical drafting application because I found it with his drafting tools (bottle marked E 3).  And the powdery substance on the surface looks like lead or graphite.  The only other thing I can think of is that he used it for some sort of firearms application?  He owned a .22 rifle.  Attached is a picture of the bottle.

If it is mercury I would like some guidance on how to dispose of it if possible.  I know that mercury fumes over time can be dangerous.  I opened it once to take a peek inside.  I'm not sure that this is the right place for help but thought that there would be some sound advice at the very least.

Thanks
Mark


Offline chenbeier

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Re: Mercury or Something Else?
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2018, 02:47:46 PM »
I am not sure if you have in your country a place where you can bring dangerous waste. If so then I would bring it to there. Its difficult to say what it is without an analysis.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2018, 02:59:19 PM by chenbeier »

markdon

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Re: Mercury or Something Else?
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2018, 02:53:16 PM »
I'm in the US, so I think it shouldn't be too much of a problem.  Thank you for the reply.  I guess there's no mechanical drafting application for mercury?  I was wondering if anyone would know.  I know that standards for handling mercury were a lot looser in the 60's.  I appreciate the feedback.

Offline kriggy

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Re: Mercury or Something Else?
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2018, 04:09:11 PM »
Yeah, if its silver liquid kinda heavy its mercury. I suggest calling/asking nearby fire dept, they could help you.

Offline billnotgatez

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Re: Mercury or Something Else?
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2018, 06:52:43 PM »
In the USA, many localities have a hazardous waste day. If they do then the department that handles that knows what resources are available for disposal of hazardous waste.

markdon

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Re: Mercury or Something Else?
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2018, 08:38:36 PM »
Thanks for the replies, everyone.  In the spring we have a hazardous waste day in our county.  For now, I will place it in a plastic container and store it out of reach.  The E3 label and why he had it is still a mystery, but I appreciate the replies.  Knowing him, he had some use that most people wouldn't have but who knows.
Thanks,
Mark

Offline billnotgatez

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Re: Mercury or Something Else?
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2018, 08:47:12 PM »
In some cases people would think it a collector item.

If he was interested in weather he might have had it for a barometer.
We used it in a manometer for instrument calibration.

Offline Enthalpy

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Re: Mercury or Something Else?
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2018, 10:10:47 AM »
Mercury is silvery like most metals.

I know no use for mercury in mechanical drafting. I could imagine some conductive ink loaded with a metal powder.

It doesn't wet glass. Do I see on the pictures that the unknown liquid adheres to the bottle?

Mercury is very dense to our senses. Denser than steel, copper and lead. Does it feel heavier than the same volume of steel, if you're used to it? Or can you weigh the full bottle and measure its outer dimensions and estimate the inner? By shaking gently the bottle sidewise, do you feel forces much stronger than with water?

A simple test (you're not supposed to sniff the vapours for hours) is to plunge two ohmmeter electrodes in the thing, or preferably two copper wires.
  • If the resistance is zero Ω, it's a liquid metal, probably mercury, or possibly a gallium alloy.
  • At 1Ω to few MΩ, it's an ionic liquid.
  • Over the MΩ, it's a non-ionic liquid.
In an other test, a drop of mercury reacts with aluminium to make an alloy. It punches slowly through an aluminium wrapping foil. Unfortunately, this takes some liquid outside the bottle.

Offline Corribus

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Re: Mercury or Something Else?
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2018, 12:48:16 PM »
I think Enthalpy's suggestion to estimate density is the best course of action. Density of mercury is about 13.5 g/cm^3. If your estimated density is above 10 g/cm^3, it's probably mercury.
What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?  - Richard P. Feynman

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