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calcium carbonate

calcium carbonate, CaCO3, white chemical compound that is the most common nonsiliceous mineral. It occurs in two crystal forms: calcite, which is hexagonal, and aragonite, which is rhombohedral. Calcium carbonate is largely insoluble in water but is quite soluble in water containing dissolved carbon dioxide, combining with it to form the bicarbonate Ca(HCO3)2. Such reactions on limestone (which is mainly composed of calcite) account for the formation of stalactites and stalagmites in caves. Iceland spar is a pure form of calcium carbonate and exhibits birefringence, or double refraction.

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

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