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Magnesium oxide


Magnesium oxide

Magnesium oxide
IUPAC name
Magnesium oxide
Other names
ATC code A02
A06, A12
EC number 215-171-9
RTECS number OM3850000
Molar mass 40.3044 g/mol
Appearance White powder
Odor Odorless
Density 3.58 g/cm3
Melting point 2,852 °C (5,166 °F; 3,125 K)
Boiling point 3,600 °C (6,510 °F; 3,870 K)
0.00062 g/100 mL (0 °C)
0.0086 g/100 mL (30 °C)
Solubility Soluble in acid, ammonia
insoluble in alcohol
Band gap 7.8 eV[1]
Thermal conductivity 45–60 W·m−1·K−1[2]
6.2 ± 0.6 D
Halite (cubic), cF8
Fm3m, No. 225
a = 4.212Å
Octahedral (Mg2+); octahedral (O2−)
37.8 J/mol K
26.9 J·mol−1·K−1[3]
−601.8 kJ·mol−1[3]
-596.6 kJ/mol
Main hazards Metal fume fever, Irritant
Safety data sheet ICSC 0504
R-phrases R36, R37, R38
NFPA 704
Flash point Non-flammable
US health exposure limits (NIOSH):
PEL (Permissible)
TWA 15 mg/m3 (fume)[4]
REL (Recommended)
None designated[4]
750 mg/m3 (fume)[4]
Related compounds
Other anions
Magnesium sulfide
Other cations
Beryllium oxide
Calcium oxide
Strontium oxide
Barium oxide
Related compounds
Magnesium hydroxide
Magnesium nitride
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
 N  (: Y/N?)

Magnesium oxide (MgO), or magnesia, is a white hygroscopic solid mineral that occurs naturally as periclase and is a source of magnesium (see also oxide). It has an empirical formula of MgO and consists of a lattice of Mg2+ ions and O2− ions held together by ionic bonding. Magnesium hydroxide forms in the presence of water (MgO + H2O → Mg(OH)2), but it can be reversed by heating it to separate moisture.

Magnesium oxide was historically known as magnesia alba (literally, the white mineral from magnesia - other sources give magnesia alba as MgCO3), to differentiate it from magnesia negra, a black mineral containing what is now known as manganese.

While normally "magnesium oxide" means compound MgO, magnesium peroxide MgO2 is also known as a metastable compound. According to evolutionary crystal structure prediction,[5] MgO2 is thermodynamically stable at pressures above 116 GPa (gigapascals), and a totally new semiconducting suboxide Mg3O2 is thermodynamically stable above 500 GPa.


  • Production 1
  • Applications 2
    • Cement 2.1
    • Desiccant 2.2
    • Medical 2.3
    • Other 2.4
  • Precautions 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Magnesium oxide is produced by the calcination of magnesium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide or by the treatment of magnesium chloride with lime followed by heat. Calcining at different temperatures produces magnesium oxide of different reactivity. High temperatures 1500 - 2000 °C diminish the available surface area and produces dead-burned (often called dead burnt) magnesia, an unreactive form used as a refractory. Calcining temperatures 1000 - 1500 °C produce hard-burned magnesia which has limited reactivity and calcining at lower temperature, (700-1000°C) produces light-burned magnesia, a reactive form, also known as caustic calcined magnesia. Although some decomposition of the carbonate to oxide occurs at temperatures below 700°C, this appears rapidly reversible due to absorption of carbon dioxide from the air. [6]


A refractory material is one that is physically and chemically stable at high temperatures. "By far the largest consumer of magnesia worldwide is the refractory industry, which consumed about 56 % of the magnesia in the United States in 2004, the remaining 44 % being used in agricultural, chemical, construction, environmental, and other industrial applications."[7]


MgO is one of the raw materials for making Portland cement in dry process plants. If too much MgO is added, the cement may become expansive.


MgO is a relatively poor desiccant, but because it neutralizes sulfur oxide acids created by oxidation of Kraft-processed papers, it is used by many libraries for preserving books.[8]


In medicine, magnesium oxide is used for relief of heartburn and sour stomach, as an antacid, magnesium supplement, and as a short-term laxative. It is also used to improve symptoms of indigestion. Side effects of magnesium oxide may include nausea and cramping.[9] In quantities sufficient to obtain a laxative effect, side effects of long-term use include enteroliths resulting in bowel obstruction.[10]


  • MgO is used as a basic refractory material for crucibles and as a principal fireproofing ingredient in construction materials. As a construction material, magnesium oxide wallboards have several attractive characteristics: fire resistance, moisture resistance, mold and mildew resistance, and strength.
  • It is used as a reference white color in colorimetry, owing to its good diffusing and reflectivity properties.[11] It may be smoked onto the surface of an opaque material to form an integrating sphere.
  • It is used extensively as an electrical insulator in tubular construction heating elements. There are several mesh sizes available and most commonly used ones are 40 and 80 mesh per the American Foundry Society. The extensive use is due to its high dielectric strength and average thermal conductivity. MgO is usually crushed and compacted with minimal airgaps or voids. The electrical heating industry also experimented with aluminium oxide, but it is not used anymore.
  • It is also used as an insulator in heat-resistant electrical cable.
  • MgO doping has been shown to effectively inhibit grain growth in ceramics and improve their fracture toughness by transforming the mechanism of crack growth at nanoscale.[12]
Unpolished MgO crystal
  • Pressed MgO is used as an optical material. It is transparent from 0.3 to 7 µm. The refractive index is 1.72 at 1 µm and the Abbe number is 53.58. It is sometimes known by the Eastman Kodak trademarked name Irtran-5, although this designation is obsolete. Crystalline pure MgO is available commercially and has a small use in infrared optics.[13]
  • MgO is packed around transuranic waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, to control the solubility of radionuclides.[14]
  • MgO has an important place as a commercial plant fertilizer [15] and as animal feed. [16]
  • An aerosolized solution of MgO is used in library science and collections management for the deacidification of at-risk paper items. In this process, the alkalinity of MgO (and similar compounds) neutralizes the relatively high acidity characteristic of low-quality paper, thus slowing the rate of deterioration.[17]
  • MgO is also used as a protective coating in plasma displays.
  • Magnesium oxide is used as an oxide barrier in spin-tunneling devices. Owing to the crystalline structure of its thin films, which can be deposited by magnetron sputtering, for example, it shows characteristics superior to those of the commonly used amorphous Al2O3. In particular, spin polarization of about 85 % has been achieved with MgO[18] versus 40–60 % with alluminium oxide.[19] The value of tunnel magnetoresistance is also significantly higher for MgO (600 % at room temperature and 1,100 % at 4.2 K[20]) than Al2O3 (ca. 70 % at room temperature[21]). MgO is thermally stable up to about 700 K, vs. 600 K for Al2O3.


Magnesium oxide is easily made by burning magnesium ribbon, which produces a very bright white light, and a powdery ash. The bright flame is very hard to extinguish and it emits a harmful intensity of UV light. Inhalation of magnesium oxide fumes can cause metal fume fever.[22] When burned in open air, the magnesium gets hot enough to produce noticeable amounts of yellow magnesium nitride. Burning in a covered crucible, letting in just enough air to support combustion, will reduce the burning temperature, minimizing the production of the nitride.

See also


  1. ^ Taurian, O.E.; Springborg, M.; Christensen, N.E. (1985). "Self-consistent electronic structures of MgO and SrO" (PDF). Solid State Communications 55 (4): 351–5.  
  2. ^ Application of magnesium compounds to insulating heat-conductive fillers.
  3. ^ a b Zumdahl, Steven S. (2009). Chemical Principles (6th ed.). Houghton Mifflin Company. p. A22.  
  4. ^ a b c "NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards #0374".  
  5. ^ Zhu, Qiang; Oganov A.R.; Lyakhov A.O. (2013). "Novel stable compounds in the Mg-O system under high pressure." (PDF). Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 15: 7696–7700.  
  6. ^ R C Ropp Elsevier. Encyclopedia of the alkaline earth compounds. Elsevier. p. 109.  
  7. ^ Mark A. Shand (2006). The chemistry and technology of magnesia. John Wiley and Sons.  
  8. ^ Ferro, Shaunacy (6 January 2012). "FYI: Why Do Libraries Have That Smell?". Popular Science. Retrieved 19 Jan 2012. 
  9. ^ Magnesium Oxide. MedlinePlus. Last reviewed 02/01/2009
  10. ^ Tatekawa Y, Nakatani K, Ishii H, et al. (1996). "Small bowel obstruction caused by a medication bezoar: report of a case". Surgery today 26 (1): 68–70.  
  11. ^ Tellex, Peter A.; Waldron, Jack R. (1955). "Reflectance of Magnesium Oxide". JOSA 45 (1): 19.  
  12. ^ Tan, C.Y.; Yaghoubi, A.; Ramesh, S.; Adzila, S.; Purbolaksono, J.; Hassan, M.A.; Kutty, M.G. (December 2013). "Sintering and mechanical properties of MgO-doped nanocrystalline hydroxyapatite" (PDF). Ceramics International 39 (8): 8979–8983.  
  13. ^ Stephens, Robert E. and Malitson, Irving H. (1952). "Index of Refraction of Magnesium Oxide" (PDF). Journal of Research of the National Bureau of Standards 49 (4): 249–252.  
  14. ^ Step-By-Step Guide for Waste Handling at WIPP. Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
  15. ^ [3]
  16. ^ [4]
  17. ^ "Mass Deacidification: Saving the Written Word". Library of Congress. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  18. ^ Parkin, S. S. P.; Kaiser, C.; Panchula, A.; Rice, P. M.; Hughes, B.; Samant, M.; Yang, S. H. (2004). "Giant tunnelling magnetoresistance at room temperature with MgO (100) tunnel barriers". Nature Materials 3 (12): 862–867.  
  19. ^ Monsma, D. J.; Parkin, S. S. P. (2000). "Spin polarization of tunneling current from ferromagnet/Al2O3 interfaces using copper-doped aluminum superconducting films". Applied Physics Letters 77 (5): 720.  
  20. ^ Ikeda, S.; Hayakawa, J.; Ashizawa, Y.; Lee, Y. M.; Miura, K.; Hasegawa, H.; Tsunoda, M.; Matsukura, F.; Ohno, H. (2008). "Tunnel magnetoresistance of 604% at 300 K by suppression of Ta diffusion in CoFeB∕MgO∕CoFeB pseudo-spin-valves annealed at high temperature". Applied Physics Letters 93 (8): 082508.  
  21. ^ Wang, D.; Nordman, C.; Daughton, J. M.; Qian, Z.; Fink, J.; Wang, D.; Nordman, C.; Daughton, J. M.; Qian, Z.; Fink, J. (2004). "70% TMR at Room Temperature for SDT Sandwich Junctions with CoFeB as Free and Reference Layers". IEEE Transactions on Magnetics 40 (4): 2269.  
  22. ^ Magnesium Oxide. National Pollutant Inventory, Government of Australia.

External links

  • Data page at UCL
  • Ceramic data page at NIST
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards at CDC
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