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Magnesium chloride (MgCl2) is a salt compound with the chemical formula MgCl2. It has an ionic bond between one magnesium atom and two chlorine atoms. Magnesium chloride has a melting point below freezing and is soluble in water. It is a white solid that is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air. It also reacts with strong oxidizing agents and some metals.
The ionic bonds in the crystal structure of MgCl2 are very strong, so they require a lot of energy to break. This energy is released as heat, giving MgCl2 its high melting and boiling points. The ions are packed together in a regular repeating pattern, which is what gives magnesium chloride its crystal lattice structure. This structure also makes it a nonconductor of electricity in its solid state, because the positive and negative charges on the ions are attracted to each other rather than to electrons.
When magnesium chloride is melted, the ions can move freely through the solution and can conduct electricity. This process is called electrolysis. The ions in molten magnesium chloride are attracted to the negatively charged chlorine atoms, and they combine with them to form hydrogen chloride gas. This reaction is reversible.
A common use of magnesium chloride is de-icing parking lots, sidewalks, and highways in low-temperature areas. A recent study by Midwest Research Institute, however, found that calcium chloride actually melts more ice between -18C and -1C (0 F and 30 F). Moreover, the MgCl2 in the study contained only 83% active chemical versus dry CaCl2 which contains 48% active chemicals.