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alum

alum (ălˈəm) [key], any one of a series of isomorphous double salts that are hydrated sulfates of a univalent cation (e.g., potassium, sodium, ammonium, cesium, or thallium) and a trivalent cation (e.g., aluminum, chromium, iron, manganese, cobalt, or titanium). The name alum commonly refers to potassium aluminum sulfate dodecahydrate, or potash alum, KAl(SO4)2·12H2O, a colorless-to-white, crystalline compound. It is used in water purification, leather tanning, mordant dyeing, as an astringent, and in baking powder; it occurs in nature as the mineral kalunite. Sodium aluminum sulfate, or soda alum, NaAl(SO4)2·12H2O, is also used in baking powder. Ammonium aluminum sulfate, or ammonia alum, NH4Al(SO4)2·12H2O, is used in tanning, in dyeing and fireproofing textiles, in vegetable glues and porcelain cements, and in water purification. Chromium potassium sulfate, or chrome alum, KCr(SO4)2·12H2O, is used as a mordant in dyeing, in tanning, and in photographic fixing baths to harden gelatin films and plates. Aluminum sulfate, Al2(SO4)3·18H2O, is also called alum. A pseudoalum is a double sulfate salt of a divalent cation (e.g., magnesium or calcium) and a trivalent cation (e.g., aluminum).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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