Carbon Dioxide

Classified as a greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) is a non-inflammable, non-toxic and free gas - it is present in abundance in the atmosphere. These attributes of carbon dioxide sounds like carbon dioxide is a wonderful feedstock for creating fuels, commodity chemicals and various other materials. In fact, carbon dioxide already plays a vital role in a number of applications. However, there are a number of catches in this too. One of them is the fact that carbon dioxide is an extremely stable gas. In other words, a lot of effort is needed to activate the molecule of CO2 to make it react.

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There is another reality check and that is excessive amounts of this unwanted greenhouse gas is going into the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels that collecting millions of tons of carbon dioxide every year to make chemicals would hardly have any significant bearing on the impact of carbon dioxide on global warming. In fact, every minute the threat of global warming is rising alarmingly owing to the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide takes form when two oxygen molecules covalently bond with a solitary carbon molecule. In fact, carbon dioxide is produced when organic materials decompose and also due to respiration and combustion. It is worth mentioning here that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere before the onset of the 20th century was quite stable mainly due to the plants which have the ability of absorb this non-inflammable gas and use it for their photosynthesis process to produce their own food.

In fact, people started thinking seriously about carbon dioxide way back in the 1600s. However, at that time, they were not aware what to call this gas. The first hint regarding the presence of carbon dioxide was made by the Finnish chemist Jan Baptist van Helmont. Helmont made several observations before hinting the presence of this gas. Later, in the 18th century, a Scottish chemist named Joseph Black identified the chemical compound and also explored its various properties. However, the stage for Black's work was actually set by Helmont. It took some more time for people to create as well as study the several forms of carbon dioxide. This success came in the 1800s.

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Carbon dioxide is a very stable gas and at room temperature, it is a colorless, odourless and incombustible under normal conditions. However, this gas can be pressurized to form a solid, which is known as dry ice. When present in high concentration this gas is highly toxic for all animals. People inhaling excessive amounts of carbon dioxide will suffocate and eventually become unconscious. This happens because the oxygen level in their body drops drastically.

Though it is toxic in high concentrations, this gas have several uses, for instance carbon dioxide is used for fire suppression, creating an inert setting for welding and carbonation of beverages. This gas is a vital part of the carbon cycle - which is not only a complex cycle that is responsible for several mechanics of life on our planet. This gas is completely natural, but by the end of the 20th century many people started becoming concerned over the alarmingly rising levels of carbon dioxide in the environment. Scientists too became concerned as humans started producing carbon dioxide in excess and the entire amount could not be processed by the plants for photosynthesis. It is believed that unless efforts are made on an urgent basis to curb production of such high amounts of carbon dioxide, soon it may result in a grave environmental problem.

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Uses

An organic chemical compound, carbon dioxide (CO2) has a variety of commercial uses. The use of CO2 varies from laser production to making carbonated soft drinks. Carbon dioxide occurs naturally in the environment of our planet and it is also produced synthetically in various ways. Generally, commercial CO2 is obtained from the by-products of various industrial processes. In recent times, this simple gas has generated much interest both among the common people as well as environmentalists because it has been categorized among the greenhouse gases. It is worth mentioning here that greenhouse gases have a negative impact on the environment of the Earth when their concentration is very high in the atmosphere.

Both liquid and solid forms of carbon dioxide (CO2) are utilized for refrigeration, surface freezing, chilling and freezing foods quickly. In addition, carbon dioxide is injected using a special nozzle in tunnel and spiral freezers. This process works to transforms liquid carbon dioxide into dry ice that covers the surface of various types of foods.

Carbon dioxide in gaseous form is utilized in the process employed for making wines and various other soft drinks, as it helps to put off bacterial as well fungal growth. Apart from this, carbon dioxide is the perfect solvent for various types of organic compounds. For instance, this gas is utilized for decaffeinating coffee. In addition CO2 is also employed in the form of a propellant for product extracting and dispensing agents. Carbon dioxide is also used in the process involved in canning with a view to displace air.

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Producers use differential distillation as well as supercritical carbon dioxide extraction for producing flavours and fragrances. Aside from this, cold sterilization effect is undertaken by employing a mixture of 90 percent carbon dioxide and 10 percent ethylene oxide. In this instance, use of CO2 results in stabilizing other gases and averts any kind of possible explosions.

Among the various other uses of carbon dioxide, this gas is utilized in producing dry ice by means of pressure and cooling processes. Dry ice is used in refrigeration. Carbon dioxide gas is converted into a liquid by pressure and cooling. Subsequently, the liquid carbon dioxide is turned into dry ice by relieving as well as applying pressure.

In fact, waste water treatment also requires carbon dioxide in the form of a cooling medium during the environmental testing of electronic gadgets, where this gas is used for adding conductivity to especially purified water. In addition, this gas is also used in the form of an environment friendly supercritical fluid to get rid of the photo resist from wafers with a view to avoid the use of organic solvents.

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One of the most well-known uses of carbon dioxide is its application in extinguishing fires. Carbon dioxide is highly effective for this purpose because this gas neither burns, not does it aid in burning. In addition, this simple gas is widely used in production of soft drinks, beer, and mineral water. Liquid carbon dioxide is also vaporized rapidly and used for blasting in the coal mines.

Carbon dioxide has applications in several diverse industries such as food industry, chemical industry as well as the oil industry. Carbon dioxide is also used in several consumer products which require pressurized gas since it is noninflammable and also inexpensive. Moreover, elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide may also be used in the form of a pesticide.

In its gaseous form, carbon dioxide is employed for making bread bubbled, wherein yeasts produce CO2 by means of fermentation. When yeast is added to dough it produces carbon dioxide and the gas expands when the dough is heated, which makes the bread tasty as well as porous.

Though carbon dioxide has been responsible for polluting the environment as a greenhouse gas, it is of great importance for life to continue on the Earth. Carbon dioxide is essential for the photosynthesis process undertaken by plants. Plants subsequently produce oxygen that is essential for the respiration process of all living organisms.

Carbon dioxide also have several uses and applications in pharmaceutical as well as different chemical processing since it is a less toxic substitute to various other solvents that have been used traditionally, such as organochlorides. This gas has various uses in the chemical industry too. For instance, carbon dioxide is uses for manufacture of carbonates, bicarbonates, urea and also sodium salicylate.

Aside from its industrial applications, carbon dioxide is also used in medicine. Roughly about 5 percent of carbon dioxide is added to unadulterated oxygen to stimulate breathing following apnea and also to stabilize the balance between oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the bloodstream.

Moreover, carbon dioxide is also utilized in the process involved in the manufacture of casting molds with a view to enhance their hardness.

Carbon dioxide is used in a large scale in the form of a shield that protects the weld pedal from too much oxidation owing to its exposure to the air. In present times, a mixture of carbon dioxide and argon is employed for elevated welding rate. In addition to this, use of this mixture also does away with the need for any extra treatment once the welding has been completed. At the same time, dry rice pellets are used with a view to substitute sandblasting in the process involved in getting rid of paints from various types of surfaces. Consequently, the cleanup and disposal costs are reduced substantially.

Large quantities of carbon dioxide are required in the chemical industries, especially when it is used for making methanol and urea. In addition carbon dioxide is used in the oil industry for extracting oil and also maintaining the pressure. After the gas is pumped, carbon dioxide is dissolved into the soil, which helps to reduce the viscosity. When this happens, extracting oil becomes much easier. Simply speaking, when this process is used it helps in extracting more oil.

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