When it comes to construction and other industrial activities that involve dumping pollutants into the water or the earth, scientists have been scrambling to come up with solutions to this problem. Obviously, we can not just tell companies to "stop it," or anything like that. Rather, it is better to work together and collaborate to find a way to lessen any environmental impacts.
How does that work in practice, though? Well, as you can probably imagine, there have been rather mixed results. There are some promising potentials, though, some of which are already being used to reduce toxicity, balance pH levels, and mitigate pollutants. What is this substance, you are probably wondering?
The answer is quicklime. If you are unfamiliar, I do not blame you for that. You can find more details in this article, https://www.lowimpact.org/categories/lime, but I will be explaining today as well. Whether you are passionate about the environment or improving industrial processes, you will find something that interests you!
What is Quicklime?
While not many people have heard of this substance, the answer to this question is remarkably simple. It is calcium oxide, sometimes represented as CaO. Usually, though, we just call it "lime."
This does raise another line of inquiry, though. We hear the phrase "lime" all of the time, but what does it really mean? It refers to any chemical compound that contains carbon, so long as they are inorganic. This is a broad category, so just keep in mind that we are talking about calcium oxide in specific.
So, what does it look like then? It is characterized by a white coating (due to the calcium), and it is solid at room temperature. Some other notes are that it is typically caustic to bare skin, and it has an alkaline pH (meaning it is basic rather than acidic).
If you are wondering where to find it, there are a few answers to that. Thankfully, it is a relatively inexpensive material, and thus is known as one of the commodity minerals. Places like Carmeuse carry it in stock most, if not all of the time. Some even specialize in it entirely, which can land you a nice deal if you search carefully.
What Makes it so Popular?
Naturally, one of the reasons for its rising popularity is that aforementioned inexpensive pricing. Since it is a fairly common compound, and not overly complex to synthesize, it does not end up costing companies an arm and a leg to buy in bulk. That definitely makes a difference for these highly competitive industries, trust me.
What else is there, though? Well, it is an invaluable component in refining steel. It can help to remove any impurities that exist in molten steel. It creates slag as a result, but that can be repurposed for other projects (including in construction).
It is also used in the paper making industry for turning wood chips into wood pulp, which I had no idea about until I started looking into some of the other ways that humans utilize this compound. It probably comes as a surprise to you, too!
Of course, plenty of chemical plants use calcium oxide as well. It is an easily accessible way to adjust pH levels in other substances and compounds, making it invaluable in these operations. Reading research papers like this one helps to provide some additional perspective on this as well, thankfully, since some of it is difficult to fully explain in such a short amount of time.
For those involved with construction, you have probably been waiting for this one: quicklime is a large component in the creation of cement and concrete. It has been used in this process for a long time, so not much has changed there. Thankfully, it remains a safe and reliable way to produce the cement that we need for cities and other areas.
Why Does this Matter?
Understandably, you might be wondering why I chose to write about this of all things. It probably does not seem like an overly engaging topic. However, seeing as this compound plays a large role in our lives without us even realizing, I find it enjoyable to share this knowledge with others!
As I have described, there are several applications for it that many of us did not know about. In addition to that, there is still plenty of research being done on calcium oxide to figure out some other uses as well. Since it is a commodity compound, we have motivation and resources to continue studying it.
If you are involved in any of the industries that utilize it, I hope that this article has helped you to gain a new understanding of it. While that can certainly seem unnecessary, I do find that gaining more knowledge in our fields can be beneficial!