It’s not just a character from the X-Men movies: Quicksilver is the alternative name for the metal Mercury. Mercury, atomic number 80 on the periodic table, is a heavy, silvery-white liquid metal. (It stays in liquid form even at room temperature!) Although it’s been around since the ancient Egyptians, overall mercury use has declined owing to mercury toxicity and concerns for the environment and human health.
Mercury easily forms alloys with other metals, such as gold, silver, zinc and cadmium. These alloys are called amalgams and are used to help extract gold from its ores.
Mercury has been used in medical devices, batteries, paints, car switches, clocks, thermostats, dental amalgam, fluorescent lamps, and even soap. Many people may still remember mercury thermometers that were placed under their tongues when they were younger, or watched the ‘mercury rise’ in outdoor thermometers. Because of health concerns, substitute resources are now being used in these consumer goods – though mercury can still be readily found in materials at scrap metal recycling facilities. There are several US State and Federal Regulations that address the disposal and recycling of electronics and other consumer goods that could contain mercury, including switches, relays, and batteries.
Unlike the Marvel character, the element Quicksilver cannot travel at superhuman speed or “vibrate atoms so quickly he travels forward in time,” but it is still a fascinating element.
Take a look at this infographic to see 9 Fast Facts About Mercury, also known as Quicksilver.