I have vague memories of my 11th grade chemistry teacher telling us that a chocolate craving as a sign of a magnesium deficiency. Whether or not that’s true I can’t really say — I never tested that theory. I mean, who in their right mind satisfies a chocolate craving with a multi-vitamin? A chocolate craving means I have a chocolate deficiency, which I rectify with chocolate. Occam’s Razor, you know?
Anyway, you may not think about magnesium very often, except for when you read it on a nutrition label. However, magnesium is more than just a trace mineral that makes you feel good about what you’re eating even though you don’t know what benefit it actually provides. Magnesium is a metal that is useful for a broad range of industrial applications. Magnesium can be melted down for magnesium die-casting, a process in which molten magnesium is poured into a mold. This is an effective method for manufacturing parts. Many car manufacturers use parts made from die-cast magnesium.
More Uses for Molten Magnesium
You’ve probably seen this video of culinary stuntmen cooking steak and corn over molten lava. Though it has to be the world’s most expensive and labor-intensive cut of meat, it does look tasty.
It made me wonder, though: could steak be cooked over molten magnesium?
Magnesium has a melting point of 1,202 degrees Fahrenheit — less than half of that of the basaltic rock that was melted down for the “lava” in the meat-cooking stunt. Does that mean magnesium would only be half as effective? When ignited, magnesium burns with a bright light. It burns at 2200 degrees, much higher than its melting point. Could you use it to flame a steak, rather than grill it? It would, admittedly, be tough on your eyes, given how bright it is when it burns. So…wear a welder’s mask?
Unfortunately, because I do not have access to equipment necessary for melting magnesium, nor magnesium itself, I cannot conduct the kind of research that would answer these questions.
A quick Google search generates some interesting pieces about magnesium experiments that other people have done. Since I can’t do these experiments myself, at least I can live vicariously though the experiments of others.
If you want to get an idea of what burning magnesium looks like, visit Mad Physics.
Curious about what magnesium looks like when it burns in dry ice? Visit Imagination Station.
The “Squeaky Pop” experiment also involves magnesium. If you can get a hold of magnesium, you can conduct this experiment at home.
An interesting history of the original magnesium experiments — the experiments that led to the extraction of magnesium — is available on Chemicool.