Metal Refining & Recovery, Episode19: Gold From Mercury

Metal Refining & Recovery,  Episode19: Gold From Mercury

Hi everyone, welcome back to Cody’s lab So this here’s my mercury distillation apparatus that I built in a previous video link in the description I just got through using this to distill several hundred pounds of mercury and it worked flawlessly right up to the point where the tube somewhere got plugged. Uh… I think just the distilling the mercury the the contaminants that were in it eventually Melted like say there was lead in there and that plugged the tube so I stopped functioning But I got through most of what I needed to do so It did, it did its purpose and today. I’m going to be cleaning it out and Recovering all that junk that was in the mercury a lot of it might be precious metals. now, There was some of this mercury that I distilled that was used in mining and I expect that would contain some gold, Silver, Etc. Most of what I distilled was actually used in dental work, so it’s probably just got Zinc and Silver in it and of course there is that half a gram or so that Dissolved off of my gold bar that I put in there when I was flushing it down the toilet, so let’s open this up Okay Was easier than I thought it would be Let’s screw this bolt out Forgot that was that long That was a long bolt All right, so there’s my copper washer. I was using a seal it Like it’s pretty good. There’s just a little bit of mercury on the threads Let’s actually pick this up and tip it over See if anything comes out I didn’t run it to dryness like I didn’t heat it after it stopped working so There should be a little bit of liquid mercury still in there Here we go, that’s interesting, it’s like clumps of stuff actually Lets keep shaking that out zoom in with the camera Yeah, all there’s crystals! Okay so after it cooled down the stuff that was in solution with the mercury Must have precipitated out into crystals So, that’s interesting. So that’s my contaminants that were in the mercury right there Feel like there should be… didn’t I put some glass in there? Might be stuck Let’s See Yeah, that end there it’s plugged I can’t get the wire to go through, see I might have to cut it open to get everything That feels like most of the mercury though Let me whack it with a hammer and see if that loosens it up Yeah, that didn’t do it. I’m gonna have to cut it open. I’m gonna have to cut this open by hand Wouldn’t wanna power saw blowing mercury everywhere Well here we are. I got it cut open and the inside of this is actually pretty clean, see that Here’s the bottom it looks like the glass pieces. I put in there Melted and that’s why they didn’t come out. They’d stuck to the bottom a little bit that sticking to the bottom of the metal here That’s probably because of the impurities allowing the mercury to stick to the steel All right, so it’s been a couple of months since I last worked on this Hopefully I’m able to find all the video clips. I’m pretty sure I’ve Used several different memory cards over that time Here’s the stuff, which is looking rather nasty. Probably got a little iron oxide and stuff mixed with it Let me see if I rinse out this bottle here So today, we’re gonna separate the mercury from the precious metals And assuming my furnace works We’ll melt down the precious metal to see just how much we got So got some Nitric acid here Let’s add this to it And dissolve everything, Well except the gold of course This will dissolve the Silver, Copper, Lead, and the Mercury Set this into another cup So we can contain it if it boils over There we go got a little bit of the Nitrogen oxides coming off there, lets put watch glass over it so we can contain it That should actually make a little bit of Nitric acid in the water surrounding it. I’ll just ventilate this area Let it do its thing for the next little while So it looks to me like most of the mercury has reacted with the acid You can see there’s some salt crystals in here, which tells me. We got some solubility problems. I’m actually gonna add in a little bit more water to help dissolve that Pour this off, its definitely got some dissolved Copper there, all right Let’s add a little bit more acid So I’ve recovered some of that hard chunky material that came out of the still It’s taking a long time to dissolve I originally thought it was metallic crystals, maybe Silver crystals, but on closer inspection it’s not really a crystalline form I think it’s just Chunks of Mercury amalgam It was a little cold in here, so I put this on a hot plate Just pull it out of there right now. I think all the Mercury’s gone because you can see it stopped reacting Slightly green probably due to Iron and Copper in solution Let’s pour this off And that black that’s left over there. I think is my gold. There’s a little bit of glass Left over, that I must not have gotten out I’ll give this a good rinse to get rid of the rest of the Mercury, and We can fire that down and see how much we got The Mercury nitrate isn’t extremely soluble, so I’m having to add a bunch of water and also heat the solution I think we’re almost to the point where it’s dissolved. I just have to let it settle out now Okay, so now that it’s had some time to heat up Dissolve the rest of that mercury and to settle out Let’s transfer it into this larger flask here Like that, I’ll save that and add it the gold refining Set this big beaker back into the hot sand Sand, of course, is to make it so it’s less likely that the glass will break Okay now for the fun part This will actually be the recreation of my favorite chemistry lab in high school So I’m gonna do it chloride separation here I’ve got Mercury, Silver, and Lead in the solution along with some other things but I’m mostly interested in Silver and Mercury And, I would like to remove the lid from it and anything else so, We got some Calcium chloride that I’ve dissolved here. Now when I react this you should form a white precipitant Which is Silver chloride and uh… Mercury 1 chloride both of which are insoluble The Lead also forms an insoluble chloride But, As long as I keep the solution hot most of the Lead should stay in the solution We can wash this with large amount of water, just to make sure to remove as much of the Lead as we can So fun fact, the white Mercury chloride also know as Calomel, I believe. Its name means beautiful black You’ll understand here in a little while, why it’s named that. It was actually once used as a laxative The Lewis and Clark expedition actually brought several kilograms of this stuff with them and Researchers were able to follow their exact path by finding where they’ve got large amounts of mercury So here’s our black material, which I believe to be mostly gold Okay, let’s take this, fold it up in the paper And while this is settling out Let’s pack this into the furnace along with the chunk of borax to flux it There it is. Hopefully this thing will come on, error it says Well, the little things still got issues, but I did get it working hopefully it’s able to fire that gold First thing I want to do is add a little bit more Calcium chloride just to see if Yeah, that’s not a precipitation, so everything’s good to go Let’s see if we can stir these bubbles to get the rest of that to go down Alright, I’m getting impatient, so I’m just gonna dump off this right now. There will be a little bit of mercury in it But I can Let it settle for longer, and recover that Now I’m just gonna rinse it with some hot water This will help get rid of the lid, and also anything else those in there that is soluble Particularly Copper and Iron And the Calcium actually yeah, let’s get rid of the Calcium, too Alright, I think I’m gonna pull it out of there. It’s up to temperature. It’s really a great idea to do on a plastic table Alright, any Gold? Alright, lets see if we got a bead of Gold or not “Sizzling sound of table melting.” I knew the plastic table would get burned. Alright, that looks like some gold to me see that right there I’ve cleaned off the bead you see it here. Just going to set it on my scale 0.741 grams so half a gram of that came off of my Gold bar during the Mercury flushing video The other quarter of a gram probably just came out of a Gold pan somewhere So I’ve washed this with hot water several times and theoretically I’ve gotten rid of all the Lead and anything else that isn’t Silver and Mercury chloride Now to separate the Silver out of the Mercury. I will be using some Ammonia Just regular household Ammonia be better to use something more concentrated, but this is all I’ve got at the moment You guys are about to find out why this Mercury one chloride is Called “Black” That’s more of a grey Well, I’ll stir it around a bit I bet it’ll turn black What’s going on here is the Mercury Chloride is reacting with the Ammonia and it’s actually forming little tiny bits of metallic Mercury Along with a Mercury Ammonia complex which is insoluble The Silver chloride should be solubilized All right, so it’s a settled out, and there’s actually a much darker black color, so So this is the second batch of ammonia that’s in there Let’s pour that off Recover more of the Silver Now there’s blue coloring This is actually due to the colloidal Silver that is forming due to my impure Ammonia Yeah, that’s black. Yeah, that’s more like what I was expecting. Thanks a lot I’m gonna let this settle out one more time just to get rid of all the Mercury that is washed over. I’m gonna pour it off. Then we’ll get the Silver out of this Actually, you know what I could run this through a filter. I actually have a little filter now That’ll work for that. I can only do half a liter at a time That isn’t that slick So that’s the last of it filtered through See the stuff I would have had If I didn’t filter it Now I’m gonna destroy the Ammonia Silver complex with some Muriatic acid And we should see some Silver drop out, there it is Okay Let’s let that settle And I’ll have our Silver. And then the leftover sludge I guess I’ll distill at some point I’ll probably end up building another Mercury distillation apparatus one that can actually do that sort of thing Speaking of which this black stuff here is Gonna get distilled at some point I do know of some ways to get this out chemically. I think distillation is much cleaner and easier Alright There’s the last of the Silver Let that settle and put that in the furnace. It might be a good idea to add some Lye To convert it into Silver oxide, that way it don’t release chlorine gas Come on, there you go, Silver oxide This is probably the last time I’ll be able to use this little crucible. It’s getting pretty thin Here’s our Silver, hopefully Pour it out Saw some metal in there There’s a chunk of Silver right there Nice So here’s the Silver One point seven grams (1.7g) Really wasn’t even worth trying to recover, but, you guys probably learned some chemistry so that’s always good So there’s the precious metals that I recovered from roughly 400 pounds of Mercury Hope you enjoyed! I’ll see you next time. (Music starts)


  1. Chemistry in a mason jar. I love how most of the stuff you do is 1/2 lab rat and 1/2 red neck. It's way closer to how things are actually done at home than some of the folks who have fairly well equiped labs in thier garage or basement.

  2. I really enjoy your videos brother. I'm curious, where did you learn you chemical knowledge? Self taught or school, mentor? I've learned all mine from books and failures but don't know as much as you at all.

  3. I love the fact that, while it looks like a child playing at science with food dye and bubbles, genuine chemistry is happening and is producing genuine results

  4. You need to make a metal garden, with a river of mercury, golden and silver flowers, aluminum powder as substrate, that would be cool

  5. next time you build that, you should have the top and bottom capable of opening completely, so as to clean it without cutting it open :3

  6. Jeez we never got to do cool experiments with metal solutions like that in high school… I might actually have done well if we did lol

  7. I really like that blue color of the ammonia stuff. Okay so I'm no chemist and I can only kinda follow, but I know that I like that color.

  8. Thank you Cody I love science some of these things I couldn't understand in the the science lab not only that but for the most part I didn't know how it would translate to the real world you not only find an interesting and fun way to teach science but also apply that science to the real world in a real-world way so people can see why it's so important to learn please keep up the beekeeping videos they're my favorite but any science video that you make I find that if I give it at least a minute it will catch my attention thank you for making science fun

  9. Cody what is your job or what would you call yourself (like are you a chemist)and what college or highschool courses would teach these things

  10. You remind me of witches in a Disney movie adding eye of newt, bat wings, etc…. lol I’m simply amazed at what you have laying around to throw in the cauldron. Very entertaining sir.

  11. There's some serious chemistry going on in this vid! Why was my chem class in highschool now where near as informative as this vid?!?!

  12. another great video learning so much ps if you ever want to get rid of 20lbs of mercury let me know 🙂 got some things I want to try with it in magnetics and electricity

  13. No mercury still link? ( been watching the precious metal series, saw some private vids, maybe that's where they are? ) If not, I'll find it.. I'm sure.

  14. late to comment, but in the future when cutting steel use cutting fluid! drip a bit in after starting cut to speed your cutting (by hand) by at least 1000%
    Makes a huge difference

  15. in theory it is possible ti clear iron cube with concentrated nitric acid couse iron will be passivated and amalgam will dissolve.

  16. Hey Cody, I am challenged by trying to find the lightest liquid and the densest gas to contain it in a jar to enthrall myself to see that gas on the bottom while that liquid can float atop of it inertly. Any suggestions?

  17. I suspect Cody is a metallic dragon polymorphed into human form.
    Think about it

    – Very intelligent
    – Can take lots of damage without keeling over
    – Loves "treasure" (Gold, Silver, etc..)
    – Has an underground lair

  18. I love how he waits until he sees what happens before he says what should happen lol Everytime

  19. You should do a Cody’s lab for dummies on some of these. I like watching ur videos but I’m to stupid to understand what’s happening most of the fucking time lol

  20. I really wish I would have paid attention in chemistry class. How does one distill mercury? BTW, there was no link for that video in the description.

  21. when you go to extract the silver out wouldnt that create ammonium chloride from mixing the ammonia with hcl why isnt there any white smoke from that?

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