carbon dioxide

carbon dioxide
a colorless, odorless, incombustible gas, CO2, present in the atmosphere and formed during respiration, usually obtained from coal, coke, or natural gas by combustion, from carbohydrates by fermentation, by reaction of acid with limestone or other carbonates, or naturally from springs: used extensively in industry as dry ice, or carbon dioxide snow, in carbonated beverages, fire extinguishers, etc. Also called carbonic-acid gas, carbonic anhydride.

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Inorganic compound, a colourless gas with a faint, sharp odour and a sour taste when dissolved in water, chemical formula CO2.

Constituting about 0.03% of air by volume, it is produced when carbon-containing materials burn completely, and it is a product of fermentation and animal respiration. Plants use CO2 in photosynthesis to make carbohydrates. CO2 in Earth's atmosphere keeps some of the Sun's energy from radiating back into space (see greenhouse effect). In water, CO2 forms a solution of a weak acid, carbonic acid (H2CO3). The reaction of CO2 and ammonia is the first step in synthesizing urea. An important industrial material, CO2 is recovered from sources including flue gases, limekilns, and the process that prepares hydrogen for synthesis of ammonia. It is used as a refrigerant, a chemical intermediate, and an inert atmosphere; in fire extinguishers, foam rubber and plastics, carbonated beverages (see carbonation), and aerosol sprays; in water treatment, welding, and cloud seeding; and for promoting plant growth in greenhouses. Under pressure it becomes a liquid, the form most often used in industry. If the liquid is allowed to expand, it cools and partially freezes to the solid form, dry ice.

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 (CO2), a colourless gas having a faint, sharp odour and a sour taste; it is a minor component of the Earth's atmosphere (about 3 volumes in 10,000), formed in combustion of carbon-containing materials, in fermentation, and in respiration of animals and employed by plants in the photosynthesis of carbohydrates. The presence of the gas in the atmosphere keeps some of the radiant energy received by the Earth from being returned to space, thus producing the so-called greenhouse effect (q.v.). Industrially, it is recovered for numerous diverse applications from flue gases, as a by-product of the preparation of hydrogen for synthesis of ammonia, from limekilns, and from other sources.

      Carbon dioxide was recognized as a gas different from others early in the 17th century by a Belgian chemist, Jan Baptist van Helmont, who observed it as a product of both fermentation and combustion. It liquefies upon compression to 75 kilograms per square centimetre (1,071 pounds per square inch) at 31° C (87.4° F) or to 16–24 kg per sq cm (230–345 lb per sq in.) at -23° to -12° C (-10° to 10° F). By the mid-20th century, most carbon dioxide was sold as the liquid. If the liquid is allowed to expand to atmospheric pressure, it cools and partially freezes to a snowlike solid called Dry Ice (q.v.) that sublimes (passes directly into vapour without melting) at -78.5° C (-109.3° F) at the pressure of the normal atmosphere.

      At ordinary temperatures, carbon dioxide is quite unreactive; above 1,700° C (3,100° F) it partially decomposes into carbon monoxide and oxygen. Hydrogen or carbon also convert it to carbon monoxide at high temperatures. Ammonia reacts with carbon dioxide under pressure to form ammonium carbamate, then urea, an important component of fertilizers and plastics. Carbon dioxide is slightly soluble in water (1.79 volumes per volume at 0° C and atmospheric pressure, larger amounts at higher pressures), forming a weakly acidic solution. This solution contains the dibasic acid called carbonic acid (H2CO3).

      Carbon dioxide is used as a refrigerant, in fire extinguishers, for inflating life rafts and life jackets, blasting coal, foaming rubber and plastics, promoting the growth of plants in greenhouses, immobilizing animals before slaughter, and in carbonated beverages.

      Ignited magnesium continues to burn in carbon dioxide, but the gas does not support the combustion of most materials. Prolonged exposure of humans to concentrations of 5 percent carbon dioxide may cause unconsciousness and death.

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Universalium. 2010.

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