As soon as he was able to work again he attempted to obtain the metals of the alkaline earths by the same methods as he had used for those of the fixed alkalis, but they eluded his efforts and he only succeeded in preparing them as amalgams with mercury, by a process due to Berzelius.
By the addition of sodium amalgam to a concentrated solution of ammonium chloride, the so-called ammonium amalgam is obtained as a spongy mass which floats on the surface of the liquid; it decomposes readily at ordinary temperatures into ammonia and hydrogen; it does not reduce silver and gold salts, a behaviour which distinguishes it from the amalgams of the alkali metals, and for this reason it is regarded by some chemists as being merely mercury inflated by gaseous ammonia and hydrogen.
Le Blanc has shown, however, that the effect of ammonium amalgam on the magnitude of polarization of a battery is comparable with that of the amalgams of the alkali metals.
Many amalgams are formed by the direct contact of a metal with mercury, sometimes with absorption, sometimes with evolution, of heat.
Some amalgams are liquids, especially when containing a large proportion of mercury; others assume a crystalline form.