Mercury in the environment can exist in oxidation states 0, +1, and +2. One major question in environmental chemistry research is how to best measure the oxidation state of mercury in natural systems; this is made more complicated by the fact that mercury can be reduced or oxidized on surfaces differently than it would be if it were free in solution. XPS, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, is a technique related to PES, but instead of using ultraviolet light to eject valence electrons, X-rays are used to eject core electrons. The energies of the core electrons are different for different oxidation states of the element. In one set of experiments, researchers examined mercury contamination of minerals in water. They measured the XPS signals that corresponded to electrons ejected from mercurys 4f orbitals at 105 eV, from an X-ray source that provided 1253.6 eV of energy. The oxygen on the mineral surface gave emitted electron energies at 531 eV, corresponding to the 1s orbital of oxygen. Overall the researchers concluded that oxidation states were +2 for Hg and –2 for O.
Compare the energies of the 4f electrons in mercury and the 1s electrons in oxygen from these data to the first ionization energies of mercury and oxygen from the data in this chapter.