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The name for zinc is of German origins, zink. It has been known since pre-historic times and compounds as well as the metal had been used for many years before anyone ever thought about elements at all!
Pure zinc is a bluish-silver and ductile metal with a low melting and boiling point. Most zinc today is obtained from ZnS, extracted from zinc blende ore and roasted to remove the sulfur. Zinc can also be obtained by electrolysis of aqueous zinc sulfate, a common laboratory exercise.
Zinc is reasonably resistant to corrosion and is used as a covering for baser metals like iron ("galvanizing"). Zinc can be readily cast or molded.
Discovered in 1817 by Strohmeyer (and independently in the same year by Hermann and Roloff), cadmium is named from the Greek kadmeia which is an ancient name for calamine (zinc oxide).
Cadmium metal is soft and malleable when pure and is used mostly for electroplating steel (corrosion resistance) and in the manufacture of bearings. Cadmium compounds are also found in oil paints where they provide some brilliant colors (e.g., "cadmium yellow").
Like zinc and tin, cadmium metal "cries" or emits a high pitched sound when bent rapidly. Most cadmium today is recovered as a by-product of the zinc refining process.
Mercury or "quicksilver" has been known since ancient times, distinctive because of its liquid form at room temperature. The name and symbol are taken from the Latin hydragyrus for "liquid silver".
Of course, mercury is a good material for thermometers and barometers because it expands and contracts regularly with temperature, does not "wet" or stick to glass and is very dense. It is also used in special motion-sensitive switches and in ordinary fluorescent lamps.
Mercury alloys well with a number of metals. The alloys are known as amalgams. Dental alloy is an example of one such amalgam in common use. Virtually all mercury is derived from the mineral cinnabar which is mainly HgS.
Element 112 was synthesized in 1996 at the GSI in Darmstadt, Germany by Hofmann, et. al. Lead was bombarded with zinc atoms to achieve a mass total of 277. In July of 2009 the name "copernicium" and symbol "Cn" (in honor of Copernicus) were submitted to the IUPAC.
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