Calcium was discovered by Sir Humphrey Davy in 1808. The name calcium is derived from Latin word calcium, which means lime. It is naturally found in limestone, marble, and chalk and also makes up 3.5% of the earth crust. Calcium is a metallic element found in group 2 and period 3 of the periodic table. Its atomic number is 20. Therefore, its electron configuration is 2.8.2. It is the third element in the alkaline metal group (Farndon, 2000).
Elements can exist as isotopes, atoms of the same element having the same number of protons but different neutron number, hence different mass numbers (Sharma, 1995). Calcium has about ten isotopes. Each of these isotopes has the same atomic number or number of protons, 20. Examples of these isotopes include Ca-40 with 20 neutrons, Ca-41 with 21 neutrons, Ca-42 with 22 neutrons, Ca-43 with 23 neutrons, Ca-44 with 24 neutrons, Ca-45 with 25 neutrons, Ca-46 with 26 neutrons, Ca-47 with 27 neutrons, Ca-28 with 28 neutrons, and Ca-49 with 29 neutrons. Each of these isotopes has different half-lives. Ca-49 has the shortest half life of 8.7 minutes while Ca-41 has the longest half-life of 103,000 years (Chemical Elements.com - Calcium (Ca), n.d.). The atomic numbers, the number of neutrons, mass numbers, and half-lives of isotopes of calcium are shown in Table 1 provided on the next page.
Isotope Atomic number Number of neutrons Mass Number Half life
Ca-40 20 20 40 Stable
Ca-41 20 21 41 103000 years
Ca-42 20 22 42 Stable
Ca-43 20 23 43 Stable
Ca-44 20 24 44 Stable
Ca-45 20 25 45 162.7 days
Ca-46 20 26 46 Stable
Ca-47 20 27 47 4.5 days
Ca-48 20 28 48 Stable
Ca-49 20 29 49 8.7 minutes
Table 1: Atomic numbers, neutron numbers, mass numbers, and half-lives of isotopes of calcium
Uses of Calcium
Calcium serves many roles in our daily lives and also in industries. In the extraction of metals, such as uranium and thorium, calcium acts as a reducing agent. A reducing agent is a substance which removes combined oxygen from oxides. In this case, calcium removes combined oxygen from thorium and uranium oxides, thus leading to the formation of thorium and uranium metals. Calcium is also used to make alloys. It is usually mixed with copper, aluminum, lead, magnesium, and beryllium forming alloys having different properties. Calcium also has biological uses. It is essential in all living organisms, particularly for the proper development of bones and teeth (Farndon, 2000).
As compounds, calcium serve many roles. For instance, calcium carbonate or limestone is used as building stones and also for manufacturing cement, an essential ingredient in the construction industry. Additionally, calcium carbonate can be heated in a kiln to form calcium oxide and carbon (IV) oxide gas. Calcium oxide can also be reacted with water to produce calcium hydroxide (also called slaked lime). Slake lime is use to manufacture soil, in lowering of soil acidity, and also in chemical industries. Moreover, slaked lime is vital in the removal of impurities from molten iron ore during steel making process. Furthermore, calcium hydroxide can be mixed with sand to produce lime plaster. Lastly, gypsum is used in the construction industry as plaster and by healthcare professionals for setting fractured bones.
Other Facts About Calcium
Some of the three random facts about calcium are that it does not allow x-rays to pass through them, is regulated by parathyroid glands in humans, and its role in muscle contraction. Interestingly, this element is placed fifth everywhere. By mass, it is the fifth element that forms the earth crust. It is also the fifth most abundant element both in the human body and seas water (Olmsted & Williams, 1997). I chose this element because of its important role in bone formation in the human body.
Chemical Elements.com - Calcium (Ca). (n.d.). Retrieved 12 April 2017, from http://www.chemicalelements.com/elements/ca.html#isotopes
Farndon, J. (2000). Calcium. Marshall Cavendish.
Olmsted, J., & Williams, G. M. (1997). Chemistry: The Molecular Science. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Sharma, B. K. (1995). Nuclear and radiation chemistry. Krishna Prakashan Media.
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