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Calcium

Author: Robert Husted, Mollie Boorman

Atomic Number 20
Atomic Symbol Ca
CAS ID No. 7440-70-2
Atomic Weight 40.0800 amu
Electron Configuration [Ar] 4s2
Melting Point 839.0 C
Boiling Point 1484 C
Density 1.550 g/cm3
History

(L. calx, lime) Though lime was prepared by the Romans in the first century under the name calx, the metal was not discovered until 1808. After learning that Berzelius and Pontin prepared calcium amalgam by electrolyzing lime in mercury, Davy was able to isolate the impure metal.

Sources

Calcium, a metallic element, is fifth in abundance in the earth's crust, of which it forms more than 3%. It is an essential constituent of leaves, bones, teeth, and shells. Never found in nature uncombined, it occurs abundantly as limestone, gypsum, and fluorite. Apatite is the fluorophosphate or chlorophosphate of calcium.

Properties

The metal has a silvery color, is rather hard, and is prepared by electrolysis of fused chloride and calcium fluoride (to lower the melting point).

Chemically it is one of the alkaline earth elements; it readily forms a white coating of nitride in air, reacts with water, burns with a yellow-red flame.

Uses

The metal is used as a reducing agent in preparing other metals such as thorium, uranium, zirconium, etc., and is used as a deoxidizer, desulfurizer, or decarburizer for various ferrous and nonferrous alloys. It is also used as an alloying agent for aluminum, beryllium, copper, lead, and magnesium alloys, and serves as a "getter" for residual gases in vacuum tubes, etc.

Compounds

Its natural and prepared compounds are widely used. Quicklime (CaO), which is made by heating limestone that is changed into slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) by carefully adding water, is the great base of chemical refinery with countless uses.

When mixing slaked lime with sand, it hardens mortar and plaster by taking up carbon dioxide from the air. Calcium from limestone is an important element in Portland cement.

Solubility of the carbonate in water containing carbon dioxide is high (solubility product about 110-8), which causes the formation of caves with stalactites and stalagmites and is responsible for hardness in water. Other important compounds are the carbide, chloride, cyanamide, hypochlorite, nitrate, and sulfide.




Last Update: 2011-05-26