Atomic Number 12 Element Facts – Magnesium or Mg


Magnesium is element atomic number 12. (Mark Fergus, CSIRO)

Magnesium is element atomic number 12. (Mark Fergus, CSIRO)

Magnesium is the element that is atomic number 12 on the periodic table. It is one of the alkaline earth metals, with a silver appearance in pure form. Here are interesting element facts:

Element Atomic Number 12 Facts

  • The symbol for atomic number 12 is Mg. The name magnesium comes from the Greek region called Magnesia, a source of magnesium-bearing compounds.
  • Magnesium forms a highly reactive positively-charged cation, Mg2+.
  • The atomic weight of element number 12 is 24.3050.
  • The pure metal is lightweight and quickly oxidizes to form magnesium oxide in air. Most magnesium compounds are white crystalline solids. The density of the metal is only about 2/3 that of aluminum.

    Magnesium is used for pencil sharpeners and firestarters. (Firetwister)

    Magnesium is used for pencil sharpeners and firestarters. (Firetwister)

  • Magnesium may be commercially obtained via electrolysis of seawater.
  • Magnesium is not found as a pure element on earth, but occurs in numerous compounds. It makes up around 2% of the Earth’s crust. Atomic number 12 is the 9th most abundant element in the universe. It is the third most abundant element in seawater. It is the 11th most abundant element in the human body, by weight.
  • Ancient man used magnesium compounds, such as Epsom salts, as laxatives, blood purifiers, and therapeutic agents. 
  • Much more magnesium is believed to be found below the Earth’s crust. If you took out all of the magnesium from the Earth, you’d have enough of the element to make a planet the size of Mars, and have metal left over.
  • Sir Humphry Davy first prepared pure magnesium in 1808 by passing electricity through magnesium oxide.
  • Magnesium is made in stars by fusion of the elements helium and neon.
  • The element is used to make car bodies, cans, and flares.
  • Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the human body. The average adult person has about 24 grams of element 12 in the body. It is essential for human life and participates in over 300 biochemical reactions. Over half the magnesium in the human body (50-60%) is stored in the teeth and bones. Approximately 39% of the body’s magnesium stores are in muscles. Only about 1% of the element in the body is extracellular.
  • Magnesium deficiency in humans increases risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, metabolic problems, and other health conditions.
  • Magnesium is a key element in chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants used for photosynthesis. 
  • Magnesium burns readily. Attempting to put out a magnesium fire with water will cause the fire to flare up, not put it out.
  • Because magnesium is light and strong, one of its uses was to make Mag wheels for vehicles. However, Mag wheels that contain the element are uncommon now because the magnesium too readily ignited, presenting a fire hazard. The wheels still bear the name, even though their composition has changed.
  • Over three dozen prescription medications interfere with magnesium absorption, including allergy medication, asthma drugs, diuretics, antibiotics, and some chemotherapeutic agents.
  • China produces about 80% of the global supply of magnesium.

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