What is magnesium?

The history of the discovery and fields of application

The his­to­ry of the dis­cov­ery of one el­e­ment

Mag­ne­sium com­pounds were dis­cov­ered in the dis­tant year of 1625 in Eng­land, in the town of Ep­som. Sci­en­tists ob­tained a salt from a min­er­al spring which had a lax­a­tive ef­fect and a bit­ter and un­pleas­ant taste. For this rea­son, chemists at the time called it bit­ter salt. The el­e­ment also be­came known as Eng­lish or Ep­som salt. Its present name of mag­ne­sium is of Latin ori­gin, from the name of the an­cient town of Mag­ne­sia in Asia Mi­nor.

A chunk of vapor-deposited magnesium crystals [Wikipedia]

The ob­scure chemist An­ton von Ruprecht con­duct­ed ex­per­i­ments to ob­tain the new met­al in the late 18th cen­tu­ry. The re­sult ob­tained in the ex­per­i­ment, aus­tri­um of white mag­ne­sia, was mag­ne­sium of a very low de­gree of pu­ri­ty, for the prob­lem was that the start­ing ma­te­ri­al con­tained a large amount of iron.

In the late 19th cen­tu­ry, Humphrey Davy syn­the­sized an amal­gam of an un­known met­al us­ing elec­trol­y­sis on a mix­ture of mag­ne­sia and mer­cury ox­ide, which he called “mag­ne­sium”. In Rus­sia this met­al has been known as “mag­ny” since 1831.

Oth­er chemists found a more con­ve­nient way to ob­tain this sub­stance. For ex­am­ple, An­toine Bussy from France ob­tained mag­ne­sium us­ing mag­ne­sium chlo­ride and potas­si­um. Then the renowned physi­cist and chemist Michael Fara­day worked on ob­tain­ing mag­ne­sium through the elec­trol­y­sis of liq­uid mag­ne­sium chlo­ride.

Where mag­ne­sium is found in na­ture

A large amount of Mg is found in min­er­al de­posits, in sea wa­ter and nat­u­ral brines. 1 cu­bic me­ter of wa­ter con­tains 4 kilo­grams of mag­ne­sium.

It is present in al­most 200 nat­u­ral min­er­als, but as the main el­e­ment in only three, which are:

  • mag­ne­site;

  • dolomite;

  • car­nal­lite.

A large per­cent­age of this el­e­ment is mined in the USA, 43% of the world’s to­tal in all. In Rus­sia, the Mid­dle Urals and the Oren­burg Oblast are renowned for their large sources of mag­ne­site, car­nal­lite is mined in So­likam­sk, and dolomite de­posits are found in the Mos­cow and Leningrad Oblasts.

Fields of ap­pli­ca­tion of mag­ne­sium

This el­e­ment is ex­ten­sive­ly used in our lives. Let’s see how and where mag­ne­sium is used.

Al­loys of this el­e­ment are used in au­to­mo­bile and avi­a­tion in in­dus­try, as it has two es­sen­tial func­tions: light­ness and dura­bil­i­ty.

Mg alloy motorcycle engine blocks [Wikipedia]

Mag­ne­sium is used in the man­u­fac­ture of elec­tron­ic bat­ter­ies, as this el­e­ment has a high dis­charge volt­age. Mag­ne­sium ox­ide is used for man­u­fac­tur­ing met­al­lur­gi­cal ovens. Mag­ne­sium is used for op­ti­cal pur­pos­es. Bul­lets and shells, as well as rock­ets, are man­u­fac­tured with the ad­di­tion of mag­ne­sium. Mag­ne­sium is present in do­mes­tic ap­pli­ances: lap­top com­put­ers, cam­eras etc. Re­search oth­er prop­er­ties of mag­ne­sium by con­duct­ing in­ter­est­ing ex­per­i­ments.

Mag­neisum and the hu­man body

The hu­man body con­tains a lot of mag­ne­sium. This el­e­ment takes part in over 300 bi­o­log­i­cal pro­cess­es, and ac­cord­ing­ly it pro­vides as­sis­tance in main­tain­ing the health of the body. Nowa­days, we can see a de­fi­cien­cy in hu­man con­sump­tion of mag­ne­sium. Why is this? In many ways, the ex­pla­na­tion lies in in­cor­rect nu­tri­tion and an un­healthy life­style. Sci­en­tists were in­ter­est­ed to dis­cov­er how low con­sump­tion of this el­e­ment had fall­en. And they con­clud­ed: the dai­ly dose in 2007, which came to 500 mg, had dropped by al­most half. A sim­ple test can help us to find the mag­ne­sium con­tent in the body.

A mag­ne­sium de­fi­cien­cy is dan­ger­ous and can lead to many dis­eases, so we shouldn’t ig­nore this is­sue. A de­fi­cien­cy can cause the fol­low­ing prob­lems:

  • stress and in­som­nia;

  • a state of fa­tigue, lack of at­ten­tion and re­duced work abil­i­ty;

  • ac­cel­er­at­ed heart beat and headaches.

There are also oth­er con­se­quences from a low con­sump­tion of mag­ne­sium. To cor­rect this, we must of­ten take bi­o­log­i­cal­ly ac­tive ad­di­tives (on the doc­tor’s pre­scrip­tion). And we can also sim­ply eat par­tic­u­lar foods, adding them to our diet.

Examples of food sources of magnesium [Wikipedia]

Prod­ucts with a high mag­ne­sium con­tent:

  • nuts of sev­er­al kinds and pump­kin seeds;

  • co­coa, oats, bran;

  • rice and buck­wheat;

  • beans.