Chemical characteristics of calcium carbide and its reaction with water

Chemical characteristics of calcium carbide and its reaction with water

Summary

Cal­ci­um car­bide is a chem­i­cal com­pound of cal­ci­um and car­bon, and is a white crys­talline sub­stance when pure. It is ob­tained from the re­ac­tion

Cal­ci­um car­bide is a chem­i­cal com­pound of cal­ci­um and car­bon, and is a white crys­talline sub­stance when pure. It is ob­tained from the re­ac­tion

Cal­ci­um car­bide has great prac­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance. It is also known as cal­ci­um acetylide.

The chem­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of cal­ci­um car­bide

Cal­ci­um car­bide is not volatile and not sol­u­ble in any known sol­vent, and re­acts with wa­ter to yield acety­lene gas and cal­ci­um hy­drox­ide. Its den­si­ty is 2.22 g/cm³. Its melt­ing point is 2160 °C, and its boil­ing point is 2300 °C. Since the acety­lene that forms upon con­tact with wa­ter is flammable, the sub­stance is list­ed in haz­ard class 4.3.

Cal­ci­um acetylide was first ob­tained by Ger­man chemist Friedrich Wöh­ler in 1862 when he heat­ed an al­loy of zinc and cal­ci­um with coal. The sci­en­tist de­scribed the re­ac­tion of cal­ci­um car­bide with wa­ter. Cal­ci­um car­bide re­acts vig­or­ous­ly with even mere traces of Н₂O, re­leas­ing a large amount of heat. If there is an in­suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ty of wa­ter, the re­sult­ing acetylide spon­ta­neous­ly com­busts. Cal­ci­um acetylide re­acts vi­o­lent­ly with aque­ous so­lu­tions of al­ka­lis and di­lut­ed non-or­gan­ic acids. These re­ac­tions re­lease acetylide. With its strong re­duc­tive prop­er­ties, CaC₂ re­duces all met­al ox­ides to pure met­als or turns them into car­bides.

It is eas­i­er to ob­tain cal­ci­um car­bide from its ox­ide than from cal­ci­um it­self, as the ox­ide is re­duced at tem­per­a­tures above 2000 °C. The met­al and car­bon com­bine:

CaO + 3C → CO↑ + CaC₂

The re­ac­tion takes place in an elec­tric arc fur­nace, where a mix­ture of un­slaked lime and coke or an­thracite is heat­ed. The tech­ni­cal prod­uct is grey due to the pres­ence of free car­bon, cal­ci­um ox­ide, phos­phide, sul­fide, and oth­er chem­i­cal com­pounds. CaC₂ com­pris­es 80-85% of the prod­uct by mass.

Use of cal­ci­um car­bide

In the past, cal­ci­um car­bide was used in car­bide lamps, where it served as a source of acety­lene flame. Nowa­days these lamps are still used to pow­er light­hous­es and bea­cons, and also in cave ex­plo­ration. CaC₂ also serves as a raw ma­te­ri­al in the de­vel­op­ment of chem­i­cal tech­nolo­gies, most no­tably syn­thet­ic rub­ber. Cal­ci­um car­bide is also used to make vinyl chlo­ride, acety­lene black, acry­loni­trile, acetic acid, ace­tone, eth­yl­ene, styrene, and syn­thet­ic resins.

Cal­ci­um car­bide – re­ac­tion with wa­ter

When cal­ci­um car­bide re­acts with wa­ter, acety­lene is re­leased:

2H₂O + CaC₂ → C₂H₂↑ + Ca(OH)₂

Acety­lene is an in­dus­tri­al sub­stance with an un­pleas­ant smell, which is caused by the im­pu­ri­ties it con­tains (NH₃, H₂S, PH₃, and oth­ers). In its pure form, acety­lene is a col­or­less gas with a char­ac­ter­is­tic faint smell, and it dis­solves in wa­ter.