Some Fun Facts About Our Favorite Element, Magnesium

What is Magnesium as an Element?

Magnesium, a simple element that is the eighth most abundant element in the universe, and the seventh most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, is a very important mineral metal that is a part of the Alkaline Earth Metal group. And although it is practically everywhere (every cubic kilometer of seawater contains about 1.3 billion kilograms of magnesium or 12 billion pounds per cubic mile) Magnesium is never found “free” or isolated in nature. Magnesium was first isolated by Sir Humphry Davy, an English Chemist, through the electrolysis of a mixture of magnesium oxide (Mg0) and Carnallite.

What Uses Does Magnesium Have?

Magnesium in its metal form; burns with a brilliantly bright white light and is often used in pyrotechnics, flares and photographic flashbulbs. Magnesium is actually the lightest metal that can be used to build, things. Although it’s use as structural material is limited since it burns at low temperatures. Magnesium is frequently alloyed with aluminum, which makes aluminum much easier to extrude, weld and roll. Magnesium-Aluminum alloys are used where lightweight, yet strong materials are required, such as airplanes, missiles and rockets. Cameras, horseshoes, baseball catchers’ masks and snowshoes are amongst the many items made from Magnesium alloys.

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium Oxide (Mg0), also known as Magnesia, is the second most abundant compound in the earth’s crust. Magnesium oxide is used in many antacids, in making insulating materials and in refining some metals from their ores. When combined with water, Magnesia form Magnesium Hydroxide (Mg(OH)2), better known as milk of Magnesia, which is used as a laxative.

Magnesium Sulphate

Hydrated Magnesium Sulphate (MgSO4·7H2O), better known as Epsom Salt, was discovered in 1618 by a farmer in Epsom, England, when all of his cows refused to drink the water from a specific mineral well. He tested the water and found that it tasted very bitter. He also noticed that it helped heal scratches and rashes on his skin. Epsom Salt is continued to be used today for this purpose.

Honorable Mentions

Other Magnesium compounds include Magnesium Carbonate (MgCO3) and Magnesium Fluoride (MgF2). Magnesium Carbonate is used to make many types of paints and inks and is added to table salt to prevent caking. A thin film of Magnesium Fluoride is applied to optical lenses to help reduce glare and reflections.

Magnesium derives its name from Magnesia, a district in the region of Thessaly, Greece.


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