What Is Metallic Calcium?

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Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and sea water and essential to all living organisms. It is present in bones, teeth, leaves, sea shells and cave stalactites. It is never found free in nature, however; it is always combined with oxygen, air or other metals. It is a silver-gray metal with a very low melting point, and it is reactive, combining readily with oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, silicon, boron, sulfur and other elements.

It was first synthesized as a metal in 1808 by Cornish chemist Sir Humphry Davy using electrolysis of a mixture of calcium oxide and mercury (Hg) oxide. The resulting amalgam was separated from the mercury and crystallized to give pure metallic calcium. Before that, many other scientists had come close to isolating the element by using similar methods, but Davy was the first to succeed.

Pure metallic calcium is rarely used due to its high reactivity, but it is an important alloying component in steelmaking and is also used as a deoxidizer in the production of thorium, uranium and zirconium. It is also used to control graphitic carbon in molten iron, as a helper in the refining of bismuth and for removing carbon and sulfur from certain alloys. It can be alloyed with aluminum, beryllium, copper and lead. It is also used as a “getter” for residual gases in vacuum tubes. It is available commercially as powder or pellets or as a liquid under argon.