To use all functions of this page, please activate cookies in your browser.
With an accout for my.chemeurope.com you can always see everything at a glance – and you can configure your own website and individual newsletter.
- My watch list
- My saved searches
- My saved topics
- My newsletter
Calcium (pronounced /ˈkælsiəm/) is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078. Calcium is a soft grey alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth most abundant element in the Earth's crust. It is essential for living organisms, particularly in cell physiology, and is the most common metal in many animals.
Additional recommended knowledge
The most abundant isotope, 40Ca, has a nucleus of 20 protons and 20 neutrons. This is the heaviest stable isotope of any element which has equal numbers of protons and neutrons. In supernova explosions, calcium is formed from the reaction of carbon with various numbers of alpha particles (helium nuclei), until the most common calcium isotope (containing 10 helium nuclei) has been synthesized. Calcium is the seventh most common element, by mass, in Earth's oceans.
Chemically calcium is reactive and moderately soft for a metal (though harder than lead, it can be cut with a knife with difficulty). It is a silvery metallic element that must be extracted by electrolysis from a fused salt like calcium chloride. Once produced, it rapidly forms a grey-white oxide and nitride coating when exposed to air. It is somewhat difficult to ignite, in character rather like magnesium, but when lit, the metal burns in air with a brilliant high-intensity red light. Calcium metal reacts with water, evolving hydrogen gas at a rate rapid enough to be noticeable (unlike its sister magnesium) but not fast enough at room temperature to generate much heat. Part of the slowness of the calcium-water reaction results from the metal being partly protected by insoluble white calcium hydroxide. In water solutions of acids where the salt is water soluble, calcium reacts vigorously.
Calcium salts are colorless from any contribution of the calcium, and ionic solutions of calcium (Ca2+) are colorless as well. Many calcium salts are not soluble in water. When in solution, the calcium ion to the human taste varies remarkably, being reported as mildly salty, sour, "mineral like" or even "soothing." It is apparent that many animals can taste, or develop a taste, for calcium, and use this sense to detect the mineral in salt licks or other sources. . In human nutrition, soluble calcium salts may be added to tart juices without much effect to the average palate.
Calcium is the fifth most abundant element by mass in the human body, where it is a common cellular ionic messenger with many functions, and serves also as a structural element in bone. It is the relatively high atomic-numbered calcium in the skeleton which causes bone to be radio-opaque. Of the human body's solid components after drying (as for example, after cremation), about a third of the total mass is the approximately one kilogram of calcium which composes the average skeleton (the remainder being mostly phosphorus and oxygen).
Calcium is not naturally found in its elemental state. Calcium occurs most commonly in sedimentary rocks in the minerals calcite, dolomite and gypsum. It occurs in igneous and metamorphic rocks chiefly in the silicate minerals: plagioclase, amphiboles, pyroxenes and garnets.
See also Calcium minerals.
Some uses are:
H and K lines
In the visible portion of the spectrum of many stars, including the Sun, show strong absorption lines of singly-ionized Calcium. Prominent among these are the H-line at 3968.5 Å and the K line at 3933.7 Å of singly-ionized Calcium, or Ca II. For the Sun and stars with low temperatures, the prominence of the H and K lines can be an indication of strong magnetic activity in the chromosphere. Measurement of periodic variations of these active regions can also be used to deduce the rotation periods of these stars.
Calcium (Latin calx, meaning "limestone") was known as early as the first century when the Ancient Romans prepared lime as calcium oxide. It was not isolated until 1808 in England when Sir Humphry Davy electrolyzed a mixture of lime and mercuric oxide. Davy was trying to isolate calcium; when he heard that Berzelius and Pontin prepared calcium amalgam by electrolyzing lime in mercury, he tried it himself. He worked with electrolysis throughout his life and also discovered/isolated sodium, potassium, magnesium, boron and barium.
Other compounds include Calcium carbonate (CaCO3), one of the common compounds of calcium. It is heated to form quicklime (CaO), which is then added to water (H2O). This forms another material known as slaked lime (Ca(OH)2), which is an inexpensive base material used throughout the chemical industry. Chalk, marble, and limestone are all forms of calcium carbonate.
Calcium oxide (lime) is used in many chemical refinery processes and is made by heating and carefully adding water to limestone. When lime is mixed with sand, it hardens into a mortar and is turned into plaster by carbon dioxide uptake. Mixed with other compounds, lime forms an important part of Portland cement.
When water percolates through limestone or other soluble carbonate rocks, it partially dissolves part of the rock and causes cave formation and characteristic stalactites and stalagmites and also forms hard water. Other important calcium compounds are nitrate, sulfide, chloride, carbide, cyanamide, and hypochlorite.
Calcium has four stable isotopes (40Ca and 42Ca through 44Ca), plus two more isotopes (46Ca and 48Ca) that have such long half-lives that for all practical purposes they can be considered stable. It also has a cosmogenic isotope, radioactive 41Ca, which has a half-life of 103,000 years. Unlike cosmogenic isotopes that are produced in the atmosphere, 41Ca is produced by neutron activation of 40Ca. Most of its production is in the upper metre or so of the soil column, where the cosmogenic neutron flux is still sufficiently strong. 41Ca has received much attention in stellar studies because it decays to 41K, a critical indicator of solar-system anomalies.
97% of naturally occurring calcium is in the form of 40Ca. 40Ca is one of the daughter products of 40K decay, along with 40Ar. While K-Ar dating has been used extensively in the geological sciences, the prevalence of 40Ca in nature has impeded its use in dating. Techniques using mass spectrometry and a double spike isotope dilution have been used for K-Ca age dating.
High calcium intakes or high calcium absorption were previously thought to contribute to the development of kidney stones. However, more recent studies show that high dietary calcium intakes actually decrease the risk for kidney stones. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium. Dairy products, such as milk and cheese, are a well-known source of calcium. However, some individuals are allergic to dairy products and even more people, particularly those of non Indo-European descent, are lactose-intolerant, leaving them unable to consume non-fermented dairy products in quantities larger than about half a liter per serving. Others, such as vegans, avoid dairy products for ethical and health reasons. Fortunately, many good sources of calcium exist. These include seaweeds such as kelp, wakame and hijiki; nuts and seeds (like almonds and sesame); blackstrap molasses; beans; oranges; amaranth; collard greens; okra; rutabaga; broccoli; dandelion leaves; kale; sardines; and fortified products such as orange juice and soy milk. An overlooked source of calcium is eggshell, which can be ground into a powder and mixed into food or a glass of water.
The calcium content of most foods can be found in the USDA National Nutrient Database.
Dietary calcium supplements
Calcium supplements are used to prevent and to treat calcium deficiencies. There are conflicting recommendations about when to take calcium supplements. However, most experts agree that no more than 500 mg should be taken at a time because the percent of calcium absorbed decreases as the amount of calcium in the supplement increases. It is recommended to spread doses throughout the day, with the last dose near bedtime. Recommended daily calcium intake varies from 1000 to 1500 mg, depending upon the stage of life.
In July 2006, a report citing research from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington claimed that women in their 50s gained 5 pounds less in a period of 10 years by taking more than 500 mg of calcium supplements than those who did not. However, the doctor in charge of the study, Dr. Alejandro J. Gonzalez also noted it would be "going out on a limb" to suggest calcium supplements as a weight-limiting aid.
The National Nutritional Food Association — NNFA (Newport Beach, Calif.) defines a chelate very specifically, and several criteria must be met in order for chelation to actually occur. Some of the claimed "chelates" on the market are the various Krebs (Citric Acid) Cycle chelates, such as citrate, malate, and aspartate. Dicalcium malate (chelated with malic acid) is a newer form of a true calcium chelate. It contains a high amount of elemental calcium (30%).
Prevention of fractures due to osteoporosis
Such studies often do not test calcium alone, but rather combinations of calcium and vitamin D. Randomized controlled trials found both positive and negative benefit. The different results may be explained by doses of calcium and underlying rates of calcium supplementation in the control groups. However, it is clear that increasing the intake of calcium promotes deposition of calcium in the bones, where it is of more benefit in preventing the compression fractures resulting from the osteoporotic thinning of the dendritic web of the bodies of the vertebrae, than it is at preventing the more serious cortical bone fractures which happen at hip and wrist.
A meta-analysis by the international Cochrane Collaboration of two randomized controlled trialsfound that calcium "might contribute to a moderate degree to the prevention of adenomatous colonic polyps".
More recent studies were conflicting, and one which was positive for effect (Lappe, et al.) did control for a possible anti-carcinogenic effect of vitamin D, which was found to be an independent positive influence from calcium-alone on cancer risk (see second study below) .
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Calcium". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|