If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Mercurial heart

by Brianna Barbu
February 13, 2024

Credit: Daniel Stribling/Christopher Brewer

This is one heart you don’t want to wear on your sleeve—because it’s made of liquid mercury. Daniel Stribling, now a graduate student at the University of Florida, and Christopher Brewer, now a postdoc at the University of Texas at Dallas, recorded this video of a “mercury heart” demonstration that they set up as undergraduate students at Florida State University. The demo starts with a pool of liquid mercury, about 2.5 cm in diameter, in an acidic solution containing hydrogen peroxide, which causes the surface of the metal to oxidize from mercury(0) to mercury(II). The oxidation reduces the surface tension, so the mercury flattens and and spreads out. As it spreads out, the pool runs into an iron nail suspended nearby, which reduces it back to Hg(0). When that happens, the mercury contracts, breaking contact with the nail, and enabling oxidation to restart. The mercury blob usually settles into a triangular shape that vaguely resembles a beating heart, but it can also take the shape of a pentagon or hexagon if conditions are right.

Submitted by Daniel Stribling

Do science. Take pictures. Win money. Enter our photo contest here.

Click here to see more Chemistry in Pictures.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.