Gypsum is a sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dehydrate, CaSO4.2H2O. It is soft, widely mined and used as the main constituent in many forms of plaster, blackboard chalk and fertilizer. Naturally occurring gypsum is composed of calcium, sulfur, oxygen and hydrogen.
As said, Gypsum is a soft mineral that usually appears white or gray and is composed of translucent crystals. Gypsum deposits are found as sediment in areas that were once covered by water. When rock gypsum is heated, it releases the water molecules bonded to it, and the resulting product is anhydrous gypsum, a dry powder.
Many sculptures from different cultures were made by a massive fine grained white or lightly tinted variety of gypsum, called alabaster, such as Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ancient Rome, Mesopotamia, Ancient Rome, the Byzantine Empire and the Nottingham alabasters of Medieval England.
In contrast to most salts, Gypsum’s solubility in water is moderate (~2.0-2.5 g/l at 25℃) and it becomes less at higher temperatures. When heated it loses water and first changes to calcium sulfate hemihydrate (plaster often called) and if further heat is disposed it converts to anhydrous calcium sulfate.
Commercial quantities of gypsum are found in the cities of Araripina and Grajaú in Brazil; in Pakistan, Jamaica, Iran (world’s second largest producer), Thailand, Spain, Germany, Italy, England, Ireland, Canada and the United States.
Building and Construction
The most common uses of gypsum powder are in building materials. For centuries, Gypsum has been used to decorative elements for buildings. Pure white rock gypsum (alabaster) has been used in making carved statues and sculptures. The ancient Greeks used translucent gypsum crystals to make windows. Mixture of water and Gypsum powder makes plaster of Paris, a molding material used to make ornate fixtures for adorning buildings as well as a common coating for walls. Ancient constructors also used gypsum to enhance pigments used to paint structures.
Nowadays almost all modern homes and buildings use gypsum in the form of wall board, also known as gypsum board, drywall or sheet rock. Americans homes typically contain tons of gypsum in the form of drywall. It is attached to wooden framing to make walls and ceilings. Gypsum powder mixed with water becomes hardened and rock-like when dried. The hardened gypsum is pressed between sheets of paper to form slabs of drywall which makes an inexpensive building material that can easily be cut in to size. It provides a sound barrier and is resistant to fire.
In building construction and finishing, Gypsum powder is also added to cement and paints used. In cement and concrete mixes, gypsum helps to increase the time it takes for concrete and cement to dry and harden, resulting in a more stable structure. In paint, gypsum powder is used a filler to adhere to the pigments and improve the paint’s texture.
Gypsum powder is used in agriculture as a soil conditioner and fertilizer. Applying it to soil as a fertilizer contributes calcium and sulfur, two nutrients used by plants. Gypsum powder is especially beneficial to corn and soybeans, which need a lot of sulfate in the soil to thrive. The affinity gypsum mineral has for water molecules increases soil’s ability to hold water when the gypsum is worked into the soil because the positively charged calcium ions (Ca2+) in gypsum displace the positively charged sodium ions (Na+) present in the soil.
Because gypsum is considered generally safe for humans, it can be used in small amounts in food and beverage production. In the food industry, gypsum may be used as an anti-caking agent, drying agent, dough-strengthener, firming agent, color enhancer, stabilizer and thickener. Food products that may be made with gypsum include baked goods, frosting, candies, ice cream and other frozen dairy products, puddings, gelatins and pasta. Gypsum powder is also a non-active ingredient in toothpaste.
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