Magnesium is an alkaline earth metal and is the second element in the second row of the periodic table. It has an atomic number of 12 and has a symbol of Mg. Magnesium is one of the most abundant metals on the earth (8th most abundant metal). It makes up 13% of earth’s total mass and is the third most abundant element present in sea water, sodium and chlorine being the other two.
Magnesium is grayish white in color and very light in weight. It has density equal to two thirds of aluminum. Magnesium tarnishes when exposed to air, albeit slightly only. The metal is then protected by a thin layer of oxide. Magnesium, at room temperature reacts very slowly with water. However, the reaction can be fast at higher temperatures.
When burnt, magnesium produces a very bright white flame and is very difficult to extinguish as it can burn in nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water. This quality is the reason why magnesium was widely used in incendiary weapons during WWII, for firebombing various cities across the world. Magnesium has a melting point of 650°C and a boiling point of 1091°C. Magnesium is found in more than 60 minerals like dolomite, talc, magnesite and carnellite.
Magnesium is the third most commonly used structural metal after iron and aluminum. It strength and light weight makes it very popular for use in aerospace and automobile industry. Magnesium alloys with aluminum, zinc, copper and silicon are light in weight and very strong.
They are used for the construction of automobile parts, aircraft parts and even missiles. It is also widely used in the manufacture of electronic devices like mobile phones, cameras, laptop computers and many other hand held devices. Magnesium is also used for making compounds that are used in medicines. Magnesium based medicines are good for indigestion. Human body needs magnesium as it strengthens bones, makes proteins and is responsible for regulating body temperatures.
Listed below are some very interesting and rarely known facts about magnesium:
- Magnesium is the 11th most abundant element in human body and is very important for the survival.
- A male adult needs 300 mg of magnesium in their diet daily, whereas a female requires 270 mg.
- Reduced level of magnesium in body can cause hypertension, heart disease, sleep disturbances and type2 diabetes.
- Plants also require magnesium for synthesizing chlorophyll.
- Magnesium fires are difficult to extinguish and adding water can produce hydrogen which will infuriate the fire even more.
- The right amount of magnesium in our bodies is extremely important for our sleep. Sleep disturbances can be caused if there is too high or too low magnesium in the body.
- The total magnesium present on the earth is enough to make a planet of the size of Mars. There would still be enough left to make three objects the size of our moon.
- The amount of magnesium present below the earth’s crust is much higher than the magnesium in earth’s crust.
- For a long time, calcium and magnesium were considered to be the same.
- There is some evidence to suggest that magnesium can reduce the length of migraine headaches.
- Magnesium got its name from the Greek region ‘Magnesia’, which was known for the presence of naturally occurring magnesium compounds. That is where magnesium was first discovered.
- Most of the magnesium produced in United States is through the process of electrolysis of sea water.
- China is the largest producer of magnesium and accounts for over 80% of world’s magnesium production.
- An adult person’s body has 24mg of magnesium, which is roughly equal to 4-6 teaspoons. 60% of this is found in skeleton, 39% in muscle cells and 1% extracellular.
- Human body absorbs only 20-50% of the total magnesium intake.