It separates in the form of small rose-red crystals, which decompose on boiling with water.
Davy, inspired by his successful isolation of the metals sodium and potassium by the electrolysis of their hydrates, attempted to decompose a mixture of lime and mercuric oxide by the electric current; an amalgam of calcium was obtained, but the separation of the mercury was so difficult that even Davy himself was not sure as to whether he had obtained pure metallic calcium.
When strongly heated they decompose, forming fatty acids, nitrogen peroxide and nitrogen.
This method is adopted for substances which decompose at their boiling-points under ordinary pressure, and, generally, when it is desirable to work at a lower temperature.
It crystallizes in small needles, which are readily soluble in water, and on heating, decompose at about 102° C., with liberation of nitrogen, chlorine and oxygen.
In this method of preparation it is found that the secondary alcohols decompose more readily that the primary alcohols of the series, and when sulphuric acid is used, two phases are present in the reaction, the first being the building up of an intermediate sulphuric acid ester, which then decomposes into sulphuric acid and hydrocarbon: C2H 5 OH->C 2 H 5 HSO 4 ->C 2 H 4 +-H 2 SO 4.
Alkalis decompose it into picro-podophyllic acid and picro-podophyllin, minute traces of both of which occur in a free state in the rhizome.