Uses of magnesium carbonate
Did You Know?
The mineral magnesium plays an important role in more than 300 chemical reactions that promote proper functioning of the body. According to the information presented by the Linus Pauling Institute, an adult human body contains about 25 grams of magnesium. Over 60% of all the magnesium in the body is found in the skeleton, about 27% is found in muscles, 6% to 7% is found in other cells, and less than 1% is found outside the cells.
Magnesium carbonate is an inorganic salt which is obtained by mining the mineral magnesite. It is represented by the formula MgCO3 and is commonly referred to as "chalk." It is obtained through laboratory synthesis too. The compound is solid and odorless, and is made available in the form of white powder for various commercial uses. It is used in a number of industries, in various products and processes.

Characteristic Properties

When it reacts with acids, it releases carbon dioxide and water.

When heated, it decomposes to magnesium oxide and carbon dioxide. This process is known as calcining.

It is not soluble in water.

It exhibits hygroscopic properties. It draws in and holds water molecules from the surrounding environment.

It is insoluble in alcohol.

It is alkaline and serves as a weak base.

Uses and Benefits

Most of its uses are based on its hygroscopic properties. Common commercial uses are described here.

In Food Industry

1. Its use as a food additive is very common. A pure form of this compound is added to cooking salt. About hundred years ago, in 1911, The Morton Salt company first added some amount of this compound to salt, and found that the salt did not become clumpy in humid weather. It was thus discovered that MgCO3 keeps salt free-flowing.

2. It is added to numerous food products, for example, ground spices, icing sugar, and various other food ingredients to prevent them from absorbing water. So, no lumps are formed. As a food additive, its code is E504.

3. It is added to some foods to reduce acidity. As the "carbonate" from the "magnesium carbonate" molecule separates and adheres to hydrogen ions that raise acidity, their effect is canceled. Thus, it serves as a neutralizer.

4. It is used in food and beverage processing as a filtering and clarifying agent.

5. It serves as a carbonate source in the manufacture of soft drinks, especially effervescent lemon, ginger, etc.

6. Absorption of water from the environment dilutes food coloring. But use of MgCO3 helps retain the color over an extended period of time.

7. It works as an antacid and has a soothing action in the throat. So it is used in flavored chewing tobacco powder.

8. Various supplements are fortified with this compound, and they serve as a good source of magnesium.

In Sports

9. Athletes and gymnasts rub this white chalk on their hands (or even on legs if required). This helps improve their performance as drying of hands results in better grip. Weightlifters, billiards players, rock climbers, and athletes in several other fields use MgCO3 to their hands dry and perspiration-free.

In Medicine

10. Being a base, it is used to treat dyspepsia, rheumatism, and gout.

11. It is used in the gypsum impressions from which dental plates are made.

12. Magnesium is essential for functioning of plant as well as human cells. Oral magnesium carbonate supplements are recommended to those who have low blood magnesium levels.

13. It is mainly used as an antacid and laxative. It helps relieve the symptoms of indigestion, heartburn, and constipation.

14. In the pharmaceutical industry, it is used as a binding agent and filler for tablets.

In Cosmetics

15. It is present in talcum powder, face powder, body powder, etc.

16. It is used to make special types of soaps as it plays the role of moisture stabilizer.

17. It is present in toothpastes. It helps retain the fragrance.

18. It is present in hair dyes.

In Agriculture

19. When added to cattle feed, it provides the essential element "magnesium".

20. It is used to treat various gastrointestinal disorders of animals.

21. It is used in the fertilizer industry too.

In Other Industries

22. It is mainly used to produce magnesium oxide or magnesia (MgO) by calcining. MgO is used to produce various medicines, cement, to preserve books, etc.

23. Along with dolomite minerals, magnesium carbonate is used to produce refractory bricks. It is also used in the manufacture of flooring tiles.

24. It is used in ceramic and glass industry too.

25. It serves as a magnesium source for the manufacture of catalyst compounds.

26. In cigarette paper, it acts as a combustion regulator.

27. It serves as a stabilizer in the automotive PVC plastisols.

28. In rubber and plastic industry, it is used as a filler. It not only improves the tensile strength of rubber but also makes it light. It is used as a reinforcing agent in synthetic rubber production.

29. It is used in hot and cold insulation material, fire extinguishing compositions, fireproofing, etc.

30. It enables the manufacturer to produce more white, shiny, and smooth paper. It also serves as a oil-absorbent in the manufacture of paper.

31. It acts as a smoke suppressant in plastics.

32. It is used in paint and ink industries. It helps make the product anti-misting.

33. In deodorants, it works as a perfume carrier.

34. It is used in dusting powders.

It is virtually impossible to mention each and every use of this compound as it is used in numerous ways to manufacture countless products. Magnesium carbonate when taken in large amounts may act as a laxative. So, the supplement form should be taken under the guidance of your doctor.