Red powder mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is commonly known as quicksilver and was formerly named hydrargyrum. A
heavy, silvery d-block element, mercury is the only metallic element that is liquid at standard conditions for temperature and pressure; the only other element that
is liquid under these conditions is bromine, though metals such as caesium, gallium, and rubidium melt just above room temperature.
Red powder mercury is produced by irradiating elemental mercury with mercury antimony oxide in a Russian nuclear reactor. Some people think that red mercury
is so explosive that it can be used to trigger a fusion reaction in tritium or a deuterium-tritium mixture.
Red powder mercury, a uniquely powerful chemical explosive that has been dismissed by many experts as a myth, could be real, and it could pose a serious
threat to the world’s attempts to control the spread of nuclear weapons. New information leaked from South Africa, Russia, and the US has convinced leading
nuclear weapons scientists that the chemical’s potential risks should now be taken seriously.
The scientists, who include Sam Cohen, the American nuclear physicist who invented the neutron bomb, and Frank Barnaby, the former director of the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute, are worried that red mercury could make it much easier for nations or terrorist groups to construct small but deadly
thermonuclear fusion weapons. They are calling for the 178-nation conference on the future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, due to end in New York in two
weeks, to introduce tougher controls on the international trade in tritium, one of the raw materials of the fusion bomb.