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 detail. 

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 some important information

Element NameMagnesium
Element SymbolMg
Element FamilyAlkali Earth Metal
Atomic Weight24.305
Melting Point923K or 650°C
Boiling Point1363K or 1090°C
Density at 20°C1.738 g/cm3
Number of Electrons12
Number of Protons12
Number of Neutrons (as found in most abundant isotope)12
Electronic Configuration1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2
Known Isotopes22 isotopes of which 3 are stable and 19 are radioisotopes
Element StructureHexagonal Close Packed (HCP)
Atomic Radius150 pm
Hardness2.5 mohs

Magnesium Facts: Known Isotopes

Isotope NameType and AbundanceHalf Life (HL)
19MgRadioactive4 picoseconds
20MgRadioactive90.8 ms
21MgRadioactive122 ms
22MgRadioactive3.8755 s
23MgRadioactive11.31 s
24MgStable: 79.00% AbundanceDoesn’t decay and hence, no HL
25MgStable: 10.00% AbundanceDoesn’t decay and hence, no HL
26MgStable: 11.00% AbundanceDoesn’t decay and hence, no HL
27MgRadioactive9.458 min
28MgRadioactive20.915 hours
29MgRadioactive1.30 s
30MgRadioactive335 ms
31MgRadioactive230 ms
32MgRadioactive86 ms
33MgRadioactive90.5 ms
34MgRadioactive20 ms
35MgRadioactive70 ms
36MgRadioactive3.9 ms
37MgRadioactive40 ms*
38MgRadioactive1 ms*
39MgRadioactive< 260 ns
40MgRadioactive1 ms*

* 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

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

6. Obtaining pure Magnesium remained elusive 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 to 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 an interesting story about the name. After attempting to get pure Magnesium in 1808, Davy thought 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 the 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 ‘Magnesium’. Metallic manganese on the other hand was renamed as manganese.

Magnesium Facts: 11-15

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 the 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 a 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

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 the 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 a 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.

Magnesium Facts: 21-25

21. Because Magnesium is a good conductor of electricity, it is often used in various electrical devices such as mobiles, laptops, cameras and various other handheld electrical devices.

22. Mag Wheels are specialty car wheels. They were created using Magnesium during the construction process. Mag in Mag Wheels stand for Magnesium. Today however, Mag Wheels use aluminum instead of Magnesium.

23. Magnesium oxide (MgO) is used in various industries like construction, chemical, agriculture and manufacturing. However, other compounds of Magnesium are also used.

24. Magnesium hydroxide is often used in manufacturing various plastics. While this compound doesn’t really make the plastic itself, it is actually used for making the plastic fire-resistant.

25. Magnesium is both light and strong. This is the reason why it is often mixed with other elements such as zinc, silicon, manganese, aluminum and copper to form lightweight and strong alloys that are used for manufacturing various parts of missiles, aircraft and automobile.

Magnesium Facts: 26-30

26. Magnesium is the 8th most abundant element in the crust of Earth. It is the 6th most abundant metal in Earth’s crust. In the whole universe, it is the 9th most abundant element.

27. Magnesium forms 2.3% of Earth’s crust by weight while 2.0% of Earth’s crust by moles. In the solar system, Magnesium is present as 700 parts per million by weight and in terms of moles, its abundance in the solar system is 30 parts per million.

28. If we try to consider the total mass of Earth, 13% of the planet’s mass comes from Magnesium. That’s enough Magnesium to produce a planet nearly the size of Mars. Note that the mass of Mars is about 15% the mass of Earth.

29. In seawater, the second most abundant element is Magnesium. The only element that beats Magnesium in seawater in sodium.

30. Stars that have eight times or more mass than of our Sun produce Magnesium in their cores by nuclear fusion of helium and neon. In stars that eventually end up as supernovae, Magnesium is produced by fusing 3 helium nuclei to one carbon nucleus.

Magnesium Facts: 31-35

31. Magnesium is an essential element required for life. In humans, there are some 300+ enzyme-related biochemical reactions that require Magnesium. These reactions take place in cellular levels. And yes, enzymes cannot function properly without magnesium.

32. Of all the minerals that are found in the human body, Magnesium is the 11th most abundant mineral. Magnesium makes up 0.005% of the body weight of humans.

33. Anywhere between 4 and 6 tablespoons (both upper and lower boundary included) of Magnesium is found throughout the human body. Of this entire amount, only 1% is found in blood. Remaining 99% is found in cells and bones and teeth.

34. Nearly 60% of Magnesium in the human body is found in bones and teeth. The element is found in the crystal mineral lattice of teeth and bones.

35. Our cells have Magnesium inside them in the form of positively charged ions called cations. In terms of intracellular mineral ions, Magnesium cations are 2nd most abundant in our cells. It is present in every cell in our body.

Magnesium Facts: 36-40

36. The cells found in a healthy human heart have 10x more Magnesium in them than the Magnesium present in the blood.

37. Inside our body, our small intestine is responsible for absorption of Magnesium. The absorption of this mineral starts within 1 hour after we ingest food. Only between 20% and 50% of total Magnesium intake is absorbed by the human body.

38. The total Magnesium distribution in our body is:

  • 60% in bones and teeth.
  • 39% in muscle tissues and soft tissues.
  • 1% is extracellular (present in blood).

39. 20% of all intracellular Magnesium found in the human body is present in skeletal muscle cells alone!

40. Just how important is Magnesium for us? Well, as we said that it is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions but the true importance of the element can be understood by the fact that if Magnesium intake is not sufficient, DNA synthesis in our body slows down. It helps in stabilizing DNA structures and also helps in repairing DNA damage.

Magnesium Facts: 41-45

41. Magnesium is a vital mineral even for plants. It is present in each and every single chlorophyll molecule found in a plant and is essential for the process of photosynthesis.

42. Insufficient Magnesium intake in the human body can lead to a number of serious health problems including metabolic syndrome, sleep disturbances, osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes etc.

43. At birth, the amount of Magnesium present in the body is 750 mg. By the time an infant grows up to the age of 4 months to 5 months, the amount of Magnesium in the body grows to nearly 5 grams. By the time the child grows into an adult, the Magnesium amount in the body grows to 25 grams.

44. China is the world’s largest Magnesium producer, accounting for 80% of world production.

45. There is much more Magnesium beneath the crust of Earth than what is present in the crust of Earth.

Magnesium Facts: 46-50

46. The two most widely used structural metals are iron and aluminum (in that order). The 3rd position is taken by Magnesium, because it is not only light, but also strong.

47. In the 1600’s the world renowned Epsom spring was discovered in England. The water from this spring was used as a blood purifier and for internal remedy. A person called Nehemia Grew extracted Magnesium sulfate from the water of Epsom spring in 1695. That was the origin of Epsom salt.

48. During pregnancy, women can face two common problems called acute myocardial infarction and acute eclampsia. Both these conditions are treated using Magnesium regularly.

49. Grignard reagents are a type of organic Magnesium compounds that are needed in organic chemistry for synthesis reactions.

50. There are various Magnesium compounds that are widely used for medicinal purposes such as Epsom Salts (sulfates of Magnesium), Milk of Magnesia (Magnesium hydroxide), Magnesium citrate, Magnesium chloride etc.


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