calcium oxide, chemical compound, CaO, a colorless, cubic crystalline or white amorphous substance. It is also called lime, quicklime, or caustic lime, but commercial lime often contains impurities, e.g., silica, iron, alumina, and magnesia. It is prepared by heating calcium carbonate (e.g., limestone) in a special lime kiln to about 500°C to 600°C, decomposing it into the oxide and carbon dioxide. Calcium oxide is widely used in industry, e.g., in making porcelain and glass; in purifying sugar; in preparing bleaching powder, calcium carbide, and calcium cyanamide; in water softeners; and in mortars and cements. In agriculture it is used for treating acidic soils (liming). It is incandescent when heated to high temperatures; the Drummond light, or limelight, provides a brilliant white light by heating a cylinder of lime with the flame of an oxyhydrogen torch. Calcium oxide is a basic anhydride, reacting with water to form calcium hydroxide; during the reaction (slaking) much heat is given off and the solid nearly doubles its volume.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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