Magnesium (with a symbol of Mg) is a metallic chemical element. It has an atomic number of 12, and—like calcium and barium—is considered to be an alkaline earth element.
Magnesium was discovered in1808 by the scientist Sir Humphry Davy. However, some believe Davy only found magnesium oxide, and only theorized the existence of the pure element. Nevertheless, by the end of that century, magnesium was readily extracted and used in manufacturing many products, including Epsom salts and bath soaks. People also began using the “cure all” milk of magnesia.
Magnesium is found in great abundance and is easy to extract. In fact, it can be found in seawater, which covers 70% of the earth’s surface. Today, companies collect seawater to isolate magnesium. In its purest form, magnesium is a very light metal with a very faint, silvery-white tint.
Magnesium is not considered to be a toxic chemical though it can become dangerous when it comes into contact with heat. Workers must wear protective masks when handling hot magnesium, since shavings and dust can explode or cause sparks. This “light show” is one of the reasons why Chemistry teachers like igniting magnesium shavings—it’s one way to break the boredom of classroom while showing students magnesium’s unique chemical properties.
Magnesium is often used in making alloys because it is strong but light, and thus ideal for making fast but sturdy vehicles. It is often used in manufacturing cars and even aerospace products.
Although magnesium is extremely light, it is also very strong. This makes it highly suitable for alloys, especially in the aerospace industry.