oxide, chemical compound containing oxygen and one other chemical element. Oxides are widely and abundantly distributed in nature. Water is the oxide of hydrogen. Silicon dioxide is the major component of sand and quartz. Carbon dioxide is given off during respiration by animals and plants. Carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and oxides of nitrogen are among the waste gases of gasoline-burning internal-combustion engines. Nitrous oxide is an oxide of nitrogen often called laughing gas. Many of the metals form oxides. Some metal oxides, e.g., those of iron, aluminum, tin, and zinc, are important as ores. Litharge and red lead are lead oxides used as pigments in paint. A number of elements, e.g., arsenic, carbon, manganese, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur, combine with oxygen to form more than one oxide. The inert gases do not form oxides. The halogens and inactive metals do not combine directly with oxygen, but their oxides can be formed by indirect methods. Oxides are usually named according to the number of oxygen atoms present in a molecule, e.g., monoxide (or simply oxide), dioxide, trioxide. In a molecule of carbon monoxide, CO, for example, there is one oxygen atom; in carbon dioxide, CO2, there are two; and in phosphorus pentoxide, P2O5, there are five. Oxides are commonly classified as acidic or basic oxides or anhydrides. Sulfur trioxide is an acid anhydride; it reacts with water to form sulfuric acid. Phosphorus pentoxide reacts vigorously with water to form phosphoric acid. Many metal oxides react with water to form alkaline hydroxides, e.g., calcium oxide (lime) reacts with water to form calcium hydroxide (slaked lime). Some metal oxides do not react with water but are basic in that they react with an acid to form a salt and water. Others exhibit amphoterism; i.e., they react with both acids and bases. Still others are neutral and nonreactive.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.