The Mg2+ cation is the second most abundant cation in sea water (occurring at about 12% of the mass of sodium there), which makes sea water and sea-salt an attractive commercial source of Mg. To extract the magnesium, calcium hydroxide is added to sea water to form magnesium hydroxide precipitate.
- MgCl2 + Ca(OH)2 → Mg(OH)2 + CaCl2
- Mg(OH)2 + 2 HCl → MgCl2 + 2 H2O
From magnesium chloride, electrolysis produces magnesium.
In the United States, magnesium is principally obtained by electrolysis of fused magnesium chloride from brines, wells, and sea water. At the cathode, the Mg2+ ion is reduced by two electrons to magnesium metal:
- Mg2+ + 2 e− → Mg
- 2 Cl- → Cl2 (g) + 2 e−
The United States has traditionally been the major world supplier of this metal, supplying 45% of world production even as recently as 1995. Today, the US market share is at 7%, with a single domestic producer left, US Magnesium, a company born from now-defunct Magcorp.
As of 2005, China has taken over as the dominant supplier, pegged at 60% world market share, which increased from 4% in 1995. Unlike the above-described electrolytic process, China is almost completely reliant on a different method of obtaining the metal from its ores, the silicothermic Pidgeon process (the reduction of the oxide at high temperatures with silicon).
Magnesium has three stable isotopes: 24Mg, 25Mg and 26Mg. All are present in significant amounts (see table of isotopes above). About 79% of Mg is 24Mg. The isotope 28Mg is radioactive and in the 1950s to 1970s was made commercially by several nuclear power plants for use in scientific experiments. This isotope has a relatively short half-life (21 hours) and so its use was limited by shipping times.
26Mg has found application in isotopic geology, similar to that of aluminium. 26Mg is a radiogenic daughter product of26Al, which has a half-life of 717,000 years. Large enrichments of stable 26Mg have been observed in the Ca-Al-rich inclusions of some carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. The anomalous abundance of 26Mg is attributed to the decay of its parent 26Al in the inclusions. Therefore, the meteorite must have formed in the solar nebula before the 26Al had decayed. Hence, these fragments are among the oldest objects in the solar system and have preserved information about its early history.
It is conventional to plot 26Mg/24Mg against an Al/Mg ratio. In an isochron dating plot, the Al/Mg ratio plotted is27Al/24Mg. The slope of the isochron has no age significance, but indicates the initial 26Al/27Al ratio in the sample at the time when the systems were separated from a common reservoir.
Elemental sulfur can be found near hot springs and volcanic regions in many parts of the world, especially along the Pacific Ring of Fire. Such volcanic deposits are currently mined in Indonesia, Chile, and Japan. Sicily is also famous for its sulfur mines. Sulfur deposits are polycrystalline, and the largest documented single crystal measured 22×16×11 cm3.
Significant deposits of elemental sulfur also exist in salt domes along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and in evaporites in eastern Europe and western Asia. The sulfur in these deposits is believed to come from the action of anaerobic bacteria on sulfate minerals, especially gypsum, although apparently native sulfur may be produced by geological processes alone, without the aid of living organisms (see below). However, fossil-based sulfur deposits from salt domes are the basis for commercial production in the United States, Poland, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine.
Common naturally occurring sulfur compounds include the sulfide minerals, such as pyrite (iron sulfide), cinnabar (mercury sulfide), galena (lead sulfide), sphalerite (zinc sulfide) and stibnite (antimony sulfide); and the sulfates, such as gypsum (calcium sulfate), alunite (potassium aluminium sulfate), and barite (barium sulfate). It occurs naturally in volcanic emissions, such as from hydrothermal vents, and from bacterial action on decaying sulfur-containing organic matter.
The distinctive colors of Jupiter's volcanic moon, Io, are from various forms of molten, solid and gaseous sulfur. There is also a dark area near the Lunar crater Aristarchus that may be a sulfur deposit.
Sulfur is present in many types of meteorites. Ordinary chondrites contain on average 2.1% sulfur, and carbonaceous chondrites may contain as much as 6.6%. Sulfur in meteorites is normally present as troilite (FeS), but other sulfides are found in some meteorites, and carbonaceous chondrites contain free sulfur, sulfates, and possibly other sulfur compounds.
- Main article: Isotopes of sulfur
Sulfur has 25 known isotopes, four of which are stable: 32S (95.02%), 33S (0.75%), 34S (4.21%), and 36S (0.02%). Other than 35S, the radioactive isotopes of sulfur are all short lived. 35S is formed from cosmic ray spallation of 40argon in the atmosphere. It has a half-life of 87 days.
When sulfide minerals are precipitated, isotopic equilibration among solids and liquid may cause small differences in the δS-34 values of co-genetic minerals. The differences between minerals can be used to estimate the temperature of equilibration. The δC-13 and δS-34 of coexisting carbonates and sulfides can be used to determine the pH and oxygen fugacity of the ore-bearing fluid during ore formation.
In most forest ecosystems, sulfate is derived mostly from the atmosphere; weathering of ore minerals and evaporites also contribute some sulfur. Sulfur with a distinctive isotopic composition has been used to identify pollution sources, and enriched sulfur has been added as a tracer in hydrologic studies. Differences in the natural abundances can also be used in systems where there is sufficient variation in the 34S of ecosystem components. Rocky Mountain lakes thought to be dominated by atmospheric sources of sulfate have been found to have different δS-34 values from lakes believed to be dominated by watershed sources of sulfate.
- ↑ Vardi, Nathan (February 22, 2007). "Man With Many Enemies". Forbes.com. Retrieved on 2006-06-26.
- ↑ P. C. Rickwood (1981). "The largest crystals". American Mineralogist 66: 885–907, http://www.minsocam.org/ammin/AM66/AM66_885.pdf.
- ↑ "The giant crystal project site". Retrieved on 2009-06-06.
- ↑ B. Mason (1962). Meteorites. New York: John Wiley & Sons. p. 160.