See also Easily Fusible Alloys under Alloys.

The name amalgam is given to alloys of metals containing mercury. The term comes to us from the alchemists. It signifies softening, because an excess of mercury dissolves a large number of metals.

Preparation Of Amalgams

Mercury forms amalgams with most metals. It unites directly and readily, either cold or hot, with potassium, sodium, barium, strontium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, cadmium, tin, antimony, lead, bismuth, silver, and gold; directly, but more difficultly, with aluminum, copper, and palladium. This combination takes place oftenest at the ordinary temperature; certain metals, however, like aluminum and antimony, combine only when heated in presence of quicksilver.

Quicksilver has no direct action on metals of high fusing points: manganese, iron, nickel, cobalt, uranium, platinum, and their congeners. Still, amalgams of these metals can be obtained of butyrous consistency, either by electrolysis of their saline solutions, employing quicksilver as the negative electrode, or by the action. of an alkaline amalgam (potassium or sodium), on their concentrated and neutral saline solutions. These same refractory metals are also amalgamated superficially when immersed in the amalgam of sodium or of ammonium in presence of water.

Processes for preparing amalgams by double decomposition between an alkaline amalgam and a metallic salt, or by electrolysis of saline solutions, with employment of mercury as the negative electrode, apply a fortiori to metals capable of combining directly with the quicksilver. The latter of these methods is especially utilized for the preparation of alkaline earthy metals by electrolytic decomposition of the solutions of their salts or hydrated oxides with quicksilver as a cathode.