Magnesium: Chemical Properties, Uses of Magnesium

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Quick Facts about Magnesium

Atomic Number12
Atomic Mass24.305
Discovered byMagnesium was discovered by Joseph Black

Chemical Properties of Magnesium

Group2Melting point650°C, 1202°F, 923 K
Period3Boiling point1090°C, 1994°F, 1363 K
BlocksDensity (g cm−3)1.74
Atomic number12Relative atomic mass24.305
State at 20°CGasKey isotopes24Mg
Electron configuration[Ne] 3s2CAS number7439-95-4
ChemSpider ID4575328ChemSpider is a free chemical structure database

What is Magnesium?

  • Magnesium stands out as the most chemically active element.
  • When water reaches its boiling point, magnesium replaces hydrogen, leading to the production of several metals through the thermal reduction of its salts and oxidized forms.
  • Positioned in the second group of the periodic table, magnesium has been utilized for a century, primarily in bonded forms.
  • However, it took the efforts of Chemist Sir Humphry Davy to purify and isolate the metal since it was naturally found bonded, causing a delay in its isolation.
  • Labeled as the eighth most abundant element, magnesium constitutes about 2% of the Earth’s crust.
  • In seawater, it reigns as the most plentiful element and is also discovered in underground brines and salty layers.
  • Following aluminum and iron, magnesium claims the status of the third most abundant structural metal in the Earth’s crust.
  • Magnesium occurs exclusively in nature when combined with other elements.
  • Typically displaying an oxidation state of +2, magnesium can be artificially prepared, and numerous magnesium alloys find application for various purposes.

Physical Properties of Magnesium

  • Shiny gray metal
  • Low density
  • Low melting point
  • High chemical reactivity


  • Found naturally only in combination with other elements
  • Belongs to group 2 (alkaline earth metals) in the periodic table
  • Typically has an oxidation state of +2


  • Reacts readily with air, forming a thin passivation coating of magnesium oxide.
  • This coating inhibits further corrosion of the metal.
  • The free metal burns with a brilliant-white light.


  • Mainly obtained by electrolysis of magnesium salts from brine

Cosmic Origin

  • Produced in large, aging stars by the sequential addition of three helium nuclei to a carbon nucleus
  • Released into the interstellar medium during supernova explosions

Abundance on Earth

  • Eighth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.
  • The fourth most common element in the Earth, making up 13% of the planet’s mass.
  • The third most abundant element is dissolved in seawater, after sodium and chlorine.

Biological Importance

  • Eleventh most abundant element by mass in the human body
  • Essential to all cells and approximately 300 enzymes
  • Magnesium ions interact with polyphosphate compounds such as ATP, DNA, and RNA
  • Hundreds of enzymes require magnesium ions to function

Uses of Magnesium

Medicinal Uses

  • Used in medicinal compounds such as laxatives and antacids (e.g., milk of magnesia)
  • Utilized to stabilize abnormal nerve excitation or blood vessel spasm in conditions like eclampsia.
  • Magnesium finds significant applications in the field of medicine, being utilized to treat various conditions such as skin-related problems, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and mania, and aiding in recovery after surgery.
  • In terms of dietary sources, green leafy vegetables emerge as excellent providers of magnesium. Whole grains, seeds, and nuts, particularly almonds, also serve as noteworthy contributors to magnesium intake.
  • Interestingly, magnesium is not limited to medicinal and dietary realms; it plays a role in photography as well. Flashbulbs contain magnesium, and when ignited, it produces a brilliant light. This luminosity assists photographers in capturing images in low-light conditions or even complete darkness.

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