This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
The principal employment of zinc amalgams is their use as a cathode or negative electrode in the batteries of Munson, Daniels, and Lechanché. This combination is designed to render the zinc non-attackable by the exciting liquid of the battery with open circuit. The action of the mercury is to prevent the zinc from forming a large number of small voltaic elements when foreign bodies are mingled with the metal; in a word, the giving to ordinary zinc the properties of pure zinc, and consequently of causing a great saving in expense.
For amalgamating a zinc plate it is plunged for a few seconds into water in which there is one-sixteenth in volume of sulphuric acid, then rubbing with a copper-wire brush which has been dipped in the quicksilver. The mercury takes more readily on the zinc when, after the zinc has been cleaned with water sharpened with sulphuric acid, it is moistened with a solution of corrosive sublimate, which is reduced and furnishes a first very thin coat of amalgam, on which the quicksilver is immediately fixed by simple immersion without rubbing.
The zinc of a battery may be amalgamated by putting at the bottom of the compartment containing each element, a little quicksilver in such a way that the zinc touches the liquid. The amalgamation is effected under the influence of the current, but this process applies only on condition that the zinc alone touches the bottom of the vessel containing the quicksilver.