Will a Sponge Soak Up Mercury?

If for some reason you spilled Mercury on the floor, you may be surprised to learn what happens when you try to absorb it into a sponge.
Trevor English
The photo credit line may appear like thisTAOFLEDRMAUS

Most of us have probably never found ourselves in a situation where we have spilled a jar of Mercury and thought, "hmm can I clean that up with a sponge?" Besides the fact that Mercury is incredibly toxic, it is also a super dense fluid that can be used as a temperature and pressure standard in many applications. Some of you may already be thinking about whether Mercury would be able to fit inside the pores of a sponge. Take a look at the crazy reaction of a sponge to trying to absorb mercury below, and be amazed by what happens.

Some of you may be surprised, but liquid Mercury cannot be absorbed by a sponge, no matter the size of the pores. The Youtuber behind this video also posted a bunch of other videos with using different types of sponges and none of them worked.

It would appear that the surface tension of the liquid Mercury is greater than the pore force (capillary action) generated by the sponge. there may be some other forces at work here, so those of you that are a little more chemistry and physics inclined, let us know what you think is going on in the comments.

Some things that often seem intuitive turn out to be the opposite of what we thought. Much of engineering and the sciences is about realigning your knowledge to what actually happens in the world. For those of you that just don't believe the results in this video, please do not try this at home. Not only can Mercury be absorbed through the skin, but it is also toxic through inhalation. Science and chemistry is all fun and games until someone gets Mercury poisoning.


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