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The cadmium carbide formula is CaC2. This is a compound of carbon and calcium.

A carbide is a chemical compound made of carbon and other elements such as metallic or semi-metallic. Carbides are used in the manufacture of a wide variety of products such as acetylene gas, fertilizers, and steel.

In 1892 John Motley Morehead reacted calcium oxide (lime) with coal tar and carbon to produce calcium carbide. He quenched the product in water to speed up cooling and noticed a gas was produced that he named acetylene. The resulting acetylene was used in lamps for illuminating mines. The acetylene would burn with a flame and emit light but the flammable methane gas from coal in mines made this method dangerous for miners. The use of acetylene in mines was replaced by electric lights.

Several types of carbides have been produced, but the most important is calcium carbide (CaC2). The reaction of CaO with Co is an endothermic process that requires high temperatures. This reaction is usually carried out in an electric arc furnace with the addition of coke as a feedstock. Pure CaC2 is expensive, and impurities like sulfur (CaS) and phosphorus (Ca3P2) increase the cost.

The structure of CaC2 is a network of linked carbon-carbon molecules. Each carbon atom has three bonds so it can donate two electrons to the metal ions. This results in the formation of the acetylide ion (C2O2). The remaining valencies of carbon are filled with the divalent cations of calcium and magnesium. The bond lengths in the carbon-carbon regions are remarkably close to those of organic molecules, from a triple to a single bond.

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