|Molar mass||271.52 g/mol|
|Appearance||colorless or white solid|
|Melting point||276 °C (529 °F; 549 K)|
|Boiling point||304 °C (579 °F; 577 K)|
|3.6 g/100 mL (0 °C)
7.4 g/100 mL (20 °C)
48 g/100 mL (100 °C)
|Solubility||4 g/100 mL (ether)
soluble in alcohol, acetone, ethyl acetate
slightly soluble in benzene, CS2, pyridine
|Acidity (pKa)||3.2 (0.2M solution)|
Refractive index (nD)
Std enthalpy of
|EU classification||Very toxic (T+)
Dangerous for the environment (N)
|R-phrases||R28, R34, R48/24/25, R50/53|
|S-phrases||(S1/2), S36/37/39, S45, S60, S61|
Except where noted otherwise, data is given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa)
|what is: / ?)(|
Mercury(II) chloride or mercuric chloride (archaically, corrosive sublimate) is the chemical compound of mercury and chlorine with the formula HgCl2. This white crystalline solid is a laboratory reagent and a molecular compound. Once used as a treatment for syphilis, it is no longer used for medicinal purposes because of mercury toxicity and the availability of superior treatments.
Mercuric chloride is not a salt but a linear triatomic molecule, hence its tendency to sublime. In the crystal, each mercury atom is bonded to two close chloride ligands with Hg—Cl distance of 2.38 Å; six more chlorides are more distant at 3.38 Å.
Mercuric chloride is obtained by the action of chlorine on mercury or mercury(I) chloride, by the addition of hydrochloric acid to a hot, concentrated solution of mercury(I) compounds such as the nitrate:
Its solubility increases from 6% at 20 °C (68 °F) to 36% in 100 °C (212 °F). In the presence of chloride ions, it dissolves to give the tetrahedral coordination complex [HgCl4]2−.
For this application, the mercuric chloride is supported on carbon in concentrations of about 5 weight percent. This technology has been eclipsed by the thermal cracking of 1,2-dichloroethane. Other significant applications of mercuric chloride include its use as a depolarizer in batteries and as a reagent in organic synthesis and analytical chemistry (see below). It is being used in plant tissue culture for surface sterilisation of explants such as leaf or stem nodes.
Mercuric chloride is occasionally used to form an amalgam with metals, such as aluminium. Upon treatment with an aqueous solution of mercuric chloride, aluminium strips quickly become covered by a thin layer of the amalgam. Normally, aluminium is protected by a thin layer of oxide, thus making it inert. Once amalgamated, aluminium can undergo a variety of reactions. For example, it will dissolve in water (this can be dangerous, as hydrogen gas and heat are generated). Halocarbons react with amalgamated aluminium in the Barbier reaction. These alkylaluminium compounds are nucleophilic and can be used in a similar fashion to the Grignard reagent. Amalgamated aluminium is also used as a reducing agent in organic synthesis. Zinc is also commonly amalgamated using mercuric chloride.
Mercuric chloride may be used as a stabilising agent for chemicals and analytical samples. Care must be taken to ensure that detected mercuric chloride does not eclipse the signals of other components in the sample, such as is possible in gas chromatography.
Mercury(II) chloride was used as a photographic intensifier to produce positive pictures in the collodion process of the 1800s. When applied to a negative, the mercury(II) chloride whitens and thickens the image, thereby increasing the opacity of the shadows and creating the illusion of a positive image.
For the preservation of anthropological and biological specimens during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, objects were dipped in or were painted with a "mercuric solution".[why?] Objects in drawers were protected by scattering crystalline mercuric chloride over them. It finds minor use in tanning, and wood was preserved by kyanizing (soaking in mercuric chloride). Mercuric chloride was one of the three chemicals used for railroad tie wood treatment between 1830 and 1856 in Europe and the United States. Limited railroad ties were treated in the United States until there were concerns over lumber shortages in the 1890s. The process was generally abandoned because mercuric chloride was water soluble and not effective for the long term, as well as poisonous. Furthermore, alternative treatment processes, such as copper sulfate, zinc chloride, and ultimately creosote; were found to be less toxic. Limited kyanizing was used for some railroad ties in the 1890s and early 1900s.
Mercuric chloride was used to disinfect wounds by Arab physicians in the Middle Ages. It continued to be used by Arab doctors into the twentieth century, until modern medicine deemed it unsafe for use.
Syphilis was frequently treated with mercuric chloride before the advent of antibiotics. It was inhaled, ingested, injected, and applied topically. Poisoning was so common that its symptoms were confused with those of syphilis. This usage of "salts of white mercury" is referred to in the English folk-song, "The Unfortunate Rake".
In book VI of Alexandre Dumas pere's Celebrated Crimes, he recounts the history of Antoine Derues, who killed a noblewoman, Madame de Lamotte, with "corrosive sublimate."
Mercuric chloride is highly toxic, both acutely and as a cumulative poison.
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