Magnesium is an incredible element with some really interesting properties. It’s discovery has an interesting storyline too. In this article on Magnesium facts, we will try to learn about this metal in details. We are going to cover its discovery, its characteristics, its uses and of course, go through some fun facts about the element. Before we start, let us take a look at the tables below to get some quick information…
|Element Family||Alkali Earth Metal|
|Melting Point||923K or 650°C|
|Boiling Point||1363K or 1090°C|
|Density at 20°C||1.738 g/cm3|
|Number of Electrons||12|
|Number of Protons||12|
|Number of Neutrons (as found in most abundant isotope)||12|
|Electronic Configuration||1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2|
|Known Isotopes||22 isotopes of which 3 are stable and 19 are radioisotopes|
|Element Structure||Hexagonal Close Packed (HCP)|
|Atomic Radius||150 pm|
Isotopes of Magnesium:
|Isotope Name||Type and Abundance||Half Life (HL)|
|24Mg||Stable: 79.00% Abundance||Doesn’t decay and hence, no HL|
|25Mg||Stable: 10.00% Abundance||Doesn’t decay and hence, no HL|
|26Mg||Stable: 11.00% Abundance||Doesn’t decay and hence, no HL|
|39Mg||Radioactive||< 260 ns|
* These values are not derived from pure experimental data. They have been partly derived from systematic trends.
Okay, now that we have the basic information on Magnesium available, we can move on to the list of Magnesium facts as promised by the title of this article. Let’s begin…
Magnesium Facts: 1-5 | Discovery of Magnesium
1. Prior to 1755, it was thought that both Calcium and Magnesium were the same element. In 1755 however, an experiment was conducted by Joseph Black – a Scottish chemist which proved that Magnesium and Calcium were not the same element. They were different.
2. The first attempt to isolate pure Magnesium was made in 1808 by Sir Humphrey Davy in London, England. What he received was not pure Magnesium. What did Humphrey do? He first made a paste using red mercury oxide and moist Magnesium oxide.
3. After the paste was ready, Davy made a depression in the paste. He took exactly 3.5 grams of pure mercury metal and poured it in the depression of the paste. This mercury was meant to work as a negatively charged electrode.
4. In order to make the positively charged electrode, Davy used another element – Platinum. After the setup was completed, Davy passed electricity through the paste he created. Once electricity was passed, an amalgam of Magnesium and mercury was formed on the negatively charged electrode (that is, mercury electrode). The whole experiment was conducted under a liquid hydrocarbon known as Naphtha.
5. Once Davy received the Magnesium-mercury amalgam, he took it and heated the same. As a result of this, mercury was separated from the amalgam and Magnesium was left behind. The only problem was that mercury couldn’t be removed in entirety and hence, the Magnesium obtained was not pure.
Magnesium Facts: 6-10 | Obtaining Pure Magnesium and Naming
6. Obtaining pure Magnesium remained illusive until 1828 when Antoine Bussy – a French chemist – studied the work of Friedrich Wöhler. Wöhler had obtained pure aluminum and had published his work in 1828.
7. In his publication, Wöhler wrote that he reacted potassium and aluminum chloride to obtain pure aluminum. This inspired Bussy and he thought he could use a similar method for obtaining pure Magnesium from Magnesium chloride.
8. So, Bussy used red heat for reacting potassium with Magnesium chloride and was successful in obtaining pure Magnesium. He observed that Magnesium was a silvery-white metal. It was a malleable metal that is, it did not break when hammered but rather turned into flat flakes.
9. Magnesia alba (Magnesium carbonate) was found in Thessaly district of Greece. It is from Magnesia that the name Magnesium is derived. There’s and interesting story about the name. After attempting to get pure Magnesium in 1808, Davy though that the proper name for the element would be Magnesium but it turned out that Magnesium was already used for metallic manganese. Hence, he came with name Magnium.
10. In 1812 however, some of Davy’s philosophical friends criticized him. As a result of this, Davy changed his mind and called the new element as Magnesium. Metallic manganese on the other hand was renamed as manganese.
Magnesium Facts: 11-15 | Characteristics of Magnesium
11. One of the most interesting Magnesium facts is the outermost shell of its atom has only two electrons, making it highly reactive. This explains why Magnesium is not available as an independent element in nature. It is found in form of some chemical compounds such as Magnesium chloride.
12. Because of its atomic structure and its highly reactive nature, leaving pure Magnesium in air will make it react with air. A corrosive reaction takes place just as in case of iron (which reacts with air to form rust). This corrosive reaction leads to formation of Magnesium oxide. This Magnesium oxide forms a thin layer on the element and prevents it from further corrosion.
13. Both Magnesium and its various alloys are known for high corrosion resistance (thanks to formation of Magnesium oxide). They are also known for high temperature mechanical properties.
14. Magnesium is a light-weight and low-density element. It’s density is only 2/3rd of Aluminum. Magnesium is also a malleable element. This means, it can be beaten with hammer to form a thin sheet without breaking or cracking it.
15. At room temperature, Magnesium will react with water but very slowly. However, if temperature is increased, reaction between Magnesium and water will be faster.
Magnesium Facts: 16-20 | Magnesium Fun Facts and Uses
16. Magnesium can be ignited. However, it can be ignited easily if it is in powder form or in thinly shaved form. If Magnesium is in form of a large mass or chunk, it is difficult to ignite the metal. Once ignited, Magnesium burns with a very bright white flame.
17. It is very difficult to extinguish ignited Magnesium. Attempting to extinguish ignited Magnesium with water will only intensify the fire because it reacts with water to form hydrogen, which in turn is a flammable element (gas) and hence, worsens the situation.
18. If one attempts to extinguish ignited Magnesium using pure carbon dioxide or pure nitrogen, that will also cause problems because the element is known to burn in both pure CO2 and pure nitrogen. The best way to put off or extinguish an ignited Magnesium is to cover it with sand or to use dry chemical fire extinguisher.
19. Because Magnesium burns to form a brilliant light, it is widely used in flares, photography and pyrotechnics.
20. Magnesium has a sour taste. The slightly sour flavor of the mineral water we drink comes from the little amounts of Magnesium added in the water.