# distill mercury

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so i have LOTS of mercury, well about 16lbs and i think it might be contaminated with lead and would like to distill it.

my question is do i have to use a glass/pyrex setup or can i make something out of metal? i know glass would be the best but its expensive, but i dont want to make a metal one and end up contaminating the mercury with the metal in the setup., plus if i make one out of metal i can take it to a HAZMAT disposal site when im done (assuming it didnt cost me that much to build)

i am well aware of the dangers of mercury and mainly its vapor and i will take all the required steps to prevent any or as littlle as possible escape of mercury and its vapors

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I don't see mercury and glass undergo any interaction with each other. With metals and hot liquid/gaseous Hg, I reckon you will start to form amalgams and contaminate your mercury even more.

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Stainless steel doesn't amalgamate and it's a lot tougher than glass.

However my best advice would be: don't do this anyway.

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Stainless steel doesn't amalgamate and it's a lot tougher than glass.

However my best advice would be: don't do this anyway.

dont do it with stainless or do you mean dont do it at all?

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Don't do it at all.

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well im going to do it, i just want to know the best way, i have 16lbs of contaminated mercury that i would like to be purified so unless you have a better idea on how to do this im going to distill it

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well im going to do it, i just want to know the best way, i have 16lbs of contaminated mercury that i would like to be purified so unless you have a better idea on how to do this im going to distill it

Could you describe your distillation setup? This could really go very wrong.

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well im going to do it, i just want to know the best way, i have 16lbs of contaminated mercury that i would like to be purified so unless you have a better idea on how to do this im going to distill it

You insolence will get you very badly hurt. Why do you even need it?

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It's entirely likely that he will harm others too which worries me a great deal more than any harm he might do to himself.

Since he seems dead set on doing this (and I use the term deliberately) I guess the best we can do is think of a less daft method.

Does anyone know if you can refine mercury electrolytically?

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I think you can, but the methods I remember reading of usually required platinum electrodes. I don't know if getting those would be possible for our friend here, since I assume they'd come at quite a cost. That being said, I don't really know why anyone would have 7 kg of mercury to start with.

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i do have a Mercury Vapor/Chlorine Gas Respirator and it is not that hard to prevent the vapor from reaching the atmosphere, im not going to just throw it on a stove and see what i can catch! it is possible to distill mercury safely

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Does anyone know if you can refine mercury electrolytically?

THE PURIFICATION OF MERCURY BY AN ELECTROLYTIC METHOD

Martin E. Hanke and

Martha Johnson

Science 3 November 1933: 414-415.

Very interesting read . . .

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THE PURIFICATION OF MERCURY BY AN ELECTROLYTIC METHOD

Martin E. Hanke and

Martha Johnson

Science 3 November 1933: 414-415.

Very interesting read . . .

all i can find is the first page, do you have a link that shows the entire process?

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You would have to purchase the paper if you don't have access to it yourself.

And yes, it is *possible* to distil it, but it's not easy to do. I'm going to ask again why you need so much of it?

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No one else has said this so I am going to out of concern:

If you must insist on performing any sort of method to purify this- particularly distillation- do not try to do it in one batch. Best bet would be to do it no more than 100ml at a time, and even then, only 'as needed'. This way (if/when) something does go wrong- its a much simpler issue to deal with (i.e. contain, decontaminate, report) plus your accidental exposure is likely to be lower (in both catastrophic or successful scenarios).

Also you are risking your own health, that of anyone around you, the environment and goodness I hope there are no pregnant women or children anywhere near the area. Learn to perform a RISK ASSESSMENT and learn when it's NOT suitable to commence certain lab procedures.

Edited by Suxamethonium
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rogerxd45,

As a rule (specifically, rule 2.3 b), we don't encourage (or even help with) very dangerous experiments. This is very dangerous. It's not because we are unkind, but just because we want to discourage you, and also other people, from trying this. Maybe you have a respirator, and some setup which can contain the vapors (I'm not sure that's enough!!)... but others don't necessarily have that. We do not want other people to be able to find out how to do a dangerous experiment without being warned a lot of times of the dangers.

Suxamethonium,

I agree with you that a risk assessment is very important. However, it is not necessarily true that a lot of small experiments are safer than a single large experiment. In a risk assessment, you will find that the effects of a failure might be smaller, but the chance of them happening will increase if you repeat an experiment multiple times.

rogerxd45,

That said, the idea of doing a risk assessment is definitely worth the time if you plan to do a mercury distillation!

Check each and every part of your setup, and think: "What if this somehow breaks? What happens then, and am I prepared for that?". First you make the list of all possible things that can go wrong (no matter how unlikely!!), and the results of this failure.

Later, (but only after you make your complete list) you can check whether it is likely (the chance) it will go wrong.

Questions you certainly want to ask yourself are:

- What happens if my ventilation stops somehow? Am I prepared?

- What happens if my cooling fails?

- What happens if I shut down the heater (but leave the cooler on)? Can pressure also drop below atmospheric?

- What happens if any piece of the (glass?) equipment breaks?

- What happens if my equipment has leaks?

- What happens if I drop something?

... etc, etc. Note: this is not the complete list of questions you should ask yourself. It's just to give you inspiration to check everything.

Do NOT ask yourself first: "Can my ventilation fail?"... only ask "what if it fails".

And next you make a complete list of how your ventilation can fail (electricity blackout, fusebox breaks, your little sister pulls the plug, you didn't pay the bill, etc).

And make such complete lists for all that can fail.

And only now you can assess your risks properly. Look at the effects of something going wrong, and at how likely it is. And let someone else review that too - as you may be a little optimistic about yourself.

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rogerxd45,

As a rule (specifically, rule 2.3 b), we don't encourage (or even help with) very dangerous experiments. This is very dangerous. It's not because we are unkind, but just because we want to discourage you, and also other people, from trying this. Maybe you have a respirator, and some setup which can contain the vapors (I'm not sure that's enough!!)... but others don't necessarily have that. We do not want other people to be able to find out how to do a dangerous experiment without being warned a lot of times of the dangers.

Suxamethonium,

I agree with you that a risk assessment is very important. However, it is not necessarily true that a lot of small experiments are safer than a single large experiment. In a risk assessment, you will find that the effects of a failure might be smaller, but the chance of them happening will increase if you repeat an experiment multiple times.

rogerxd45,

That said, the idea of doing a risk assessment is definitely worth the time if you plan to do a mercury distillation!

Check each and every part of your setup, and think: "What if this somehow breaks? What happens then, and am I prepared for that?". First you make the list of all possible things that can go wrong (no matter how unlikely!!), and the results of this failure.

Later, (but only after you make your complete list) you can check whether it is likely (the chance) it will go wrong.

Questions you certainly want to ask yourself are:

- What happens if my ventilation stops somehow? Am I prepared?

- What happens if my cooling fails?

- What happens if I shut down the heater (but leave the cooler on)? Can pressure also drop below atmospheric?

- What happens if any piece of the (glass?) equipment breaks?

- What happens if my equipment has leaks?

- What happens if I drop something?

... etc, etc. Note: this is not the complete list of questions you should ask yourself. It's just to give you inspiration to check everything.

Do NOT ask yourself first: "Can my ventilation fail?"... only ask "what if it fails".

And next you make a complete list of how your ventilation can fail (electricity blackout, fusebox breaks, your little sister pulls the plug, you didn't pay the bill, etc).

And make such complete lists for all that can fail.

And only now you can assess your risks properly. Look at the effects of something going wrong, and at how likely it is. And let someone else review that too - as you may be a little optimistic about yourself.

thank you for your post, its not just a dont do it its dangerous post but you explain why and steps to take

its very informative and i WILL heed your advice and do this correctly and prepare for everything to go wrong. im in no hurry so i have plenty of time to create a safe setup for myself and the environment as well as other around so thank you

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You might want to look at things like this

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg163.pdf

which give a structured approach to the risk assessment process.

Obviously, it's not designed for a home lab, but the ideas are pretty similar.

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You could call and get a quote from someone like Bethlehem Apparatus Co. to process it for you. They advertise that they have the capacity to process mercury from a few ounces to truckloads of 55-gallon drums efficiently and cost effectively. They might be able to do it for the same price you could do it yourself in an EPA approved facility. Getting a price couldn't hurt and it might actually save you some money and exposure to injury.

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You could call and get a quote from someone like Bethlehem Apparatus Co. to process it for you. They advertise that they have the capacity to process mercury from a few ounces to truckloads of 55-gallon drums efficiently and cost effectively. They might be able to do it for the same price you could do it yourself in an EPA approved facility. Getting a price couldn't hurt and it might actually save you some money and exposure to injury.

You could spend that much on equipment if you don't have it already. Here's an example apparatus that was used to process a similar quantity as yours and it looks like there's at least $500 worth of hot plate, glass and a vacuum source. Then again, you would have some of the equipment suitable for use on future projects. ##### Link to comment ##### Share on other sites their 1 time use shipping container is$490 thats the rental charge for the container to ship the mercury to them

If you think you can do a distillation at home for less than that, then really: DON'T DO IT.

Good lab equipment will set you back at least that much... If \$490 is a problem for you, then you are apparently not considering safety as your primary priority. Money comes first, safety second. And that worries me a lot.

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what about a chemical method of purification? not sure if its possible and if it is i doubt it better the distilling it.

i have no clue if this would work, what im setting up just an example that MIGHT work, i have no clue if it would but its just to give you an idea of what im talking about.

ok so dissolve the Hg into an acid to make an hg salt that is water soluble

then covert the salt to a chloride or iodide or some other salt that sufff like lead isnt water soluble and i precipitate out leaving me with a more put Hg salt that i reduce back into metallic Hg by some method

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Perhaps, but you would need to look at the cost of doing it, and it's still not safe. A risk assessment would still be a good idea.

Offhand, the best I can think of would be to dissolve it in a solution of potassium iodide and iodine which forms the tetraiodomercurate ion then add alkali.

Most metals won't dissolve in those circumstances- they will ppt as iodides or hydroxides. Some lead will dissolve but not much.

Then add formaldehyde to reduce the mercury compound back to the metal.

Any lead should stay in solution- formaldehyde isn't a strong enough reducing agent to convert it to the metal.

However, before attempting this sort of thing you need to know a lot about the techniques involved in chemistry and, to be frank, I don't think you do.

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