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Mercury House

Don't throw stones.
  [vote for,

This idea is for a house that is constructed very much like a greenhouse, but with three window panes. Under the house is a large tank of mercury. A pump fills one of the window cavities of all windows with mercury from this tank. The other cavity is really just for the displaced air (the entire window/tank system is closed), but can also be used for really cool mercury waterfall effects.

This allows for:
privacy on demand
heat control - on sunny days you can have a completely mirrored house
a really fun waterfall effect
a very odd completely mirrored house that will be the envy of your neighbors

Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

aqua blinds http://www.halfbake.../idea/aqua_20blinds
Inspired by [pluterday] [Worldgineer, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Mercury Mirror http://marciesalask...n/photos/mirror.jpg
For [bungs] [Worldgineer, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Mercury behind glass http://www.medfordclock.com/bulb1.jpg
more for [bungs] [Worldgineer, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Mercury CAN be Expensive http://www.mercuryvehicles.com/
Financing Available [Letsbuildafort, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Bulk Mercury http://www.findarti...18/p1/article.jhtml
Per 76-lb flask $140.00-$160.00 [Worldgineer, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

alkali metals and ammonia? http://www.esrf.fr/...stry/solutions.html
[po, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Electrochromic glass http://www.glassonw.../electrochromic.htm
Less toxic, but also less fun. [lyrl, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]


       And it would be easy to check the temperature.
FarmerJohn, Dec 18 2003

       When the neighbourhood kids throw a ball through the window would you have a major toxic alert on your hands? Would migrating birds flying past mistake the reflective surface for a pond? If you made calibration marks up your living room wall could you live in a giant thermometer?
dobtabulous, Dec 18 2003

       Yes - it's toxic stuff. Either have very strong glass or be willing to live with a few toxic events. No - ponds aren't sloped and are wet. Even if they did make this mistake they'd soon figure it out. Yes, but this is trivial and nerdly (so of course I'd do it).
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       Would a window full of mercury be reflective like a mirror?
bungston, Dec 18 2003

       Yes - see links.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       Bun for the Worldgineer! [+] ... don't take off your clothes if its REALLY cold out, the mercury wouldn't get above knee level ... might not make much sense where the temperature range is very dramatic.
Letsbuildafort, Dec 18 2003

       "...and the recent heat wave this summer has been bursting houses all over the state. more on that story at 10..."   

       I assume some good engineering could avoid this situation, but maybe some people (mad hatters especially) would like the danger of living in a house where the chimeny could blow off at any time...
luecke, Dec 18 2003

       [Lbaf] You don't have to only regulate it by temperature - you've got a tank of the stuff under your house.   

       [lue] There would be a simple device to keep pressure relatively low.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       can you open the windows?
po, Dec 18 2003

       Grrrr... Always causing problems [po]. You'd need a bit of engineering for operable windows, but I can see it working fine. Just add some rubber tubes hidden inside framing. Of course, they'd be heavy when full. Perhaps have them slide sideways instead of up and down.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       What about a basement? What about the big automatic garage door on the garage?
Letsbuildafort, Dec 18 2003

       Wouldn't it be a bit dark sitting behind all that mercury?
PeterSilly, Dec 18 2003

       Everyone has questions. Ok, what about a basement? Don't get your issue - if you are afraid of the tank taking up space, put it under the basement. The big automatic garage door will have to open sideways.   

       Yes, if you have your mercury all the way full it will be very dark. I suggest lights, like everyone else has. With all the mirrors around you'd need even less light than most people have.   

       I just realized how nice it would be to sleep in a house with a glass roof at night, especially if this house is far from a city.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       ... and not close to an airport.
PeterSilly, Dec 18 2003

       // No - ponds aren't sloped and are wet //   

       True but from above (where a bird might be) a sloping mercury roof reflecting the sky would look much like a horizontal (wet) pond (reflecting the sky). By the time the bird discovered that it wasn't a pond it might be too late to veer away and ..... smack - a mercury-covered dead bird is lying in your loft and a pool of mercury is forming around it ready to drip through your ceilings – lovely!   

       Could you make use of the electricity-conducting property of the mercury to provide any other amusing house-features? (I lack the imagination).
dobtabulous, Dec 18 2003

       An opaque non-toxic liquid may be a safe alternative inside windows.   

       But if you use quicksilver, have plumbing flowing with it, rather than house wiring. Install valves in place of light switches.
Amos Kito, Dec 18 2003

       [dob] I suggest strong glass on the roof.   

       Great conductivity suggestion. If nothing else you could provide automatic lighting. More lights will kick on as the mercury level rises.   

       [Amos] Wonderful!!! You could also integrate this into the windows so that you'd only need one cavity instead of two.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       You'd be surrounded by full-length mirrors. Rooms would appear to be infinite, if the walls were external and basically parallel.   

       Having said all that, the mercury gap needn't be thick. A millimeter ought to be sufficient, no?
phoenix, Dec 18 2003

       world, what if you make the mercury space, a network of fine glass capillaries - that would look really pretty. you would get your mirror effect, it would be lighter both in weight and visually and you would retain your privacy. you'd have to pass on the waterfall thingy though.
po, Dec 18 2003

       [px]Certainly. Let's see, let's assume a 2,000 sf square house with 10' ceilings. That's 1,789 sf of wall area, add a little bit for roof pitch and we have about 4,000 sf of glass. 1 mm = 3.28E-3 feet, so we have 5.867 cubic feet of mercury or about 44 gallons of mercury. That's not so much. Anyone know how much bulk mercury costs?   

       [po] I don't see why we can't do both.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       Pet doors?
Letsbuildafort, Dec 18 2003

       I think mercury is expensive.   

       at school my best friend dropped her gold engagement ring into mercury and it turned a silver colour. I cannot remember if it turned back or what the reason was? was it plated with mercury somehow?
po, Dec 18 2003

       //Anyone know how much bulk mercury costs?//   

k_sra, Dec 18 2003

       [Lbaf] One more time. They would have to swing sideways.   

       [po] I bet not that expensive.   

       [k] #'s please.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       $11.35 for 100 grams.
AO, Dec 18 2003

       That's not bulk. I'm talking gallons here.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       //[k] #'s please.//   

       More than I wish to spend.
k_sra, Dec 18 2003

       $8.25 for 50 g
$11.35 for 100 g
$29.41 for 454 g

       Do a cubic-spline (or some such) extrapolation on that data. Figure out the mass of 44 gallons of Hg, and there’s your answer.
AO, Dec 18 2003

       Everything swing sideways with you, Worldgineer? :þ~
Letsbuildafort, Dec 18 2003

       76 lb flask for $150 (see link). At 113 lb/gal, that's under $10,000. Sounds like a lot, but compared to housing prices or even the amount you'll spend setting up this system it's small.   

       [Lbaf] Everything heavy. I hate doing unnecessary work, and counterbalancing is usually too complex.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       Curses - foiled again
Letsbuildafort, Dec 18 2003

       I do like that your :þ has a goatee.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       Back to the pressure thing. Mercury is heavy stuff. If you’ve got a six-foot tall window, the pressure differential between the top and bottom is going to be about 35 psi. And if the window is two feet wide, the total force separating the panes is at least 30 thousand pounds. That’s a lot to ask of window glass, isn't it?
pluterday, Dec 18 2003

       Nothing that can't be overcome. Break it into 2 ft tall panels, if nothing else. Good catch though - I hadn't thought of that issue.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       There's no good substitute for mercury. This house is not for those so easily creeped out.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       Gallium would work. You’d have to keep it just slightly warmer than room temperature.
AO, Dec 18 2003

       The melting point of tin is 231.9681ºC (give or take 0.0001). No thank you, even on cold nights. Gallium's not bad. Is it toxic?
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       A little. Not as bad as mercury.
AO, Dec 18 2003

       449.543ºF - yeah, that'll cook a pizza in about 15 minutes.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       And less heavy. I like it, but do you have a picture? I want it to really look shiny. Does it have to be very cold?
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       Bullet proof monks would not like mercurial monasteries, so what about glass walls filled with aluminum powder and teensy plastic beads? Monks can make vertical etch-a- sketch mandalas that last till the next earthquake.
Tiger Lily, Dec 18 2003

       Go on, sloopy, post Urnie House. You know you want to.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       Urnie House? Waddat?
k_sra, Dec 18 2003

       Oops. Urine. But you knew what I meant.
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       extraction from urine usually means taking the piss!
po, Dec 18 2003

       I like this one
The Kat, Dec 18 2003

       How about Polycarbonate instead of glass. You wouldn't have as much of a problem with breakage... especially if it was laminated Polycarbonate. Though I believe it is a hard plastic so mercury may seep through. I forget; it's been a long time since chemistry. Any body know about the penetration abilities of Mercury versus Polycarbonate. (by the way, polycarbonate is what they make bullet proof glass from)
countzero, Dec 18 2003

       By the way, [countzero], polycarbonate "glass" isn't strictly glass either. They should call it "Bullet-resistant Transparent Plastic" instead.
Letsbuildafort, Dec 18 2003

       And really it could be used for stopping other objects, so perhaps "Projectile-resistant Transparent Polimer".
Worldgineer, Dec 18 2003

       [Letsbuildafort] This quote from my annotation was in reference to the fact that it isn't glass.   

       "Though I believe it is a hard plastic so mercury may seep through"
countzero, Dec 18 2003

       This is the stupidest idea I ever heard. I award you -10 pollution credits, +5 terrorism credits, and -11 yelling fire in a crowded theatre credits.
mystic2311, Dec 19 2003

       I'd wondered about the weight of the glass required to contain this amount of mercury too. There's going to have to be some strong foundations to that building.   

       Mind you, I don't think you'd need to worry too much about neighbours. I suspect that local planning departments would ensure that you're well away from anyone else - which kind of negates the privacy argument really.
PeterSilly, Dec 19 2003

       Very large amounts of extremely toxic material encased in brittle and easily destroyed container... this is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Gotta bone, sorry.
waugsqueke, Dec 19 2003

       There are lots of alternatives to mercury, whose density would cause many mechanical problems and toxicity is unacceptable. If you want a liquid metal, try gallium, as it melts in your hand and could give you some phase-transition energy absorption if air-conditioning is important. If you just want opacity, foam works great, already used in greenhousess for variable albedo effect. Metal flakes in foam could give you a cool silvery Etch-A-Sketch look, plus the kids can draw on the wall with magnetic pens and you can erase it easily.
mystic2311, Dec 19 2003

       Just use a roll of reflective thin foil, and have a little motor wind/unwind the roll along a track in between the 2 panes of glass.   

       This would be tons lighter (literally), and non-toxic, and have all the other benefits listed except "being liquid cool".
sophocles, Dec 19 2003

       Try using india ink during winter, and white (titanium oxide?) ink during summer.
lewando, Dec 20 2003

       Everyone says there will be a lot of weight, and a lot of mercury. Not necessarily though because the layer would be very thin.
akubra, Dec 23 2003

       Long ago [po] wrote:
//at school my best friend dropped her gold engagement ring into mercury and it turned a silver colour. I cannot remember if it turned back or what the reason was? was it plated with mercury somehow?//
and I missed it. Did she just put it back on? Has she been a little off ever since?

       Everyone's brought up excellent points. The only one that really concerns me is [bean]'s mercury-coated-glass issue. I think we'll have to switch to a mercury-like substance.   

       Although I like [mystic]'s point about gallium providing air conditioning benefit, I forsee phase transition issues (turning solid in undesirable places, etc.). Although we may be able to solve these issues in an elegant way, I'm going to switch the design to a silvery liquid.
Worldgineer, Dec 29 2003

       there IS a kink (link even) button kindly provided (under the text of the idea) for that very purpose, mic.
po, Dec 30 2003

       [mic] and [lyr]: Thank you for the links (and thank you [ly] for using the link button), but I know of electrochromatic glass and other technologies. However, none of these technologies include high reflectance or "a really fun waterfall effect".
Worldgineer, Dec 30 2003

       //and I missed it. Did she just put it back on? Has she been a little off ever since// she didn't end up with the guy. I wonder if she remembers...
po, Dec 30 2003

       [sloopy] Yes to all of your questions! Other than the first one - it will be just as toxic and less cool.   

       [po] Did they guy leave her because of a personality change - you know, less normal and more like a hatter.
Worldgineer, Dec 30 2003


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