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Zinc oxide

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Zinc oxide
Systematic name Zinc oxide
Other names Calamine
Molecular formula ZnO
Molar mass 81.408 g/mol
Appearance White Solid
CAS number 1314-13-2
Density 5.606 g/cm3
Solubility in water 0.16 mg/100 mL (30 °C)
Melting point 1975 °C (Decomposes)
Boiling point 2360 °C
Acidity (pKa) 9.989
Basicity (pKb) 5.255
Viscosity 1.05 cP at 52°C
Molecular shape Hexagonal and Cubic
Crystal structure Wurtzite
MSDS Material safety data sheet
Main hazards Health, Fire, Respiratory, and Chemical
NFPA 704

NFPA 704 svg.png

Flash point 1,436 °C (2,617 °F; 1,709 K)
RTECS number ZH4810000
Related compounds
Other anions Zinc sulfide
Other cations Cadmium oxide
Related ? Zinc telluride
Related compounds ZnSe
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Disclaimer and references

Zinc oxide, also known as calamine, is a white solid compounding the two elements, zinc and oxygen. It was first discovered when the Roman Empire used it in brass works. Over the centuries, it has evolved into a popular skin care product, acting as a moisturizer, sunscreen, or even healing wounds. Though it can come with many side effects, these occasions are rare and zinc oxide makes a very safe compound to use in every day life.


Zinc oxide can be crystallized in the forms of Wurtzite and Zincblende

When zinc oxide and air meet, the zinc oxide absorbs the water vapor and the carbon dioxide that is in the air. After this, the zinc oxide will end up turning into zinc carbonate. When zinc oxide is heated up to a high temperature it goes through reactions in the solid state. These reactions are called calcinations. When zinc oxide is looked at through a microscope, it can be observed that zinc oxide particles are grouped together rather than being separated and spread out. Zinc oxide can react to both alkali metals and acids. If zinc oxide reacts with alkali metals or acids, the result would be a compound similar to zinc oxide. [1]

Zinc Oxide can be crystallized in a couple different forms. These forms are wurtzite and zincblende. Wurtzite is more of a hexagon while zincblende is similar to a cube. According to the Mohs scale, zinc oxide is considered soft with a 4.5 hardness. Zinc oxide in the wurtzite and zincblende forms are not symmetrical. This means that the crystals on one side are not identical to the opposite. The hexagon crystals of zinc oxide have a group point of around 6 millimeters in average. The surfaces, however, are flat and there is no explanation behind this visual case. [2]


Zinc oxide was first discovered by the Romans while they made brass art

Back when the Roman Empire was in control, zinc was considered to be a common element when it was used in the making of brass. Many centuries later, zinc was discovered in India to be a unique metal. During a smelting process, zinc oxide was made on accident. It was a white powder and many people found it helpful when their eyes felt pain. A couple hundred years later, China used this same smelting process to make brass products with large amounts of zinc. The zinc made in China were later shipped to European countries soon after China discovered this method to produce zinc. In 1789, a French chemist by the name Antoine Lavoisier added the element of zinc to the periodic table. Until more discoveries on the element were made, the idea to use zinc mixed with water and oil to paint was appealing to many. This went on until the late 1800s. [3]


Zinc oxide can be used to treat wounds and irritations on the skin

Zinc oxide is a common ingredient in many skin products. It can be used to heal minor irritations such as burns, cuts, scratches, etc. Zinc oxide also helps make great sunblock. Zinc alone would not be any good in skincare because the zinc alone is just an ore. The ore has to be processed and oxidized in order to be mixed with the creams of sunscreens and skin care products. As mentioned before, zinc oxide was used to treat eyes centuries ago, in India. Today, zinc oxide can be used to treat dandruff, skin wounds, rashes, sun damage, and poison ivy symptoms. Zinc oxide is also great for treating acne when it is combined with similar compounds such as zinc gluconate and zinc sulfate. In these situations, the zinc oxide gets rid of the bacteria causing the acne. [4]

Side Effects

On very rare occasions, zinc oxide can cause some side effects which can be worrisome. These side effects consist of allergic reactions, drug interactions, metal fume fever, pregnancy malfunctions, and zinc toxicity. When using skin care products or sunscreen that contains zinc oxide, allergies are always, but rarely, a possibility. A burning sensation or any form of skin irritation may be felt. When consumed, the allergic reaction may be swelling of the lips or throat which causes difficulty when breathing. This can eventually lead to hives. If on chemotherapy, it is best to not consume any form of zinc oxide. The zinc oxide can make the cancer cells resistant to the cancer cells, making the cancer even more complicated. If on other medicines that that enters the bloodstream, zinc oxide may eventually stop the medicine from doing so. If the fumes of zinc oxide are inhaled, a fever can be a possible result. This fever has the dreadful symptoms of muscle weakness, large amounts of sweat, and rapid breathing which can turn into inhalation. It is important to be careful when taking zinc oxide supplements when pregnant. It is possible for the zinc oxide to harm the baby as well as affect the breast milk. Consuming too much zinc oxide can be very harmful to vital organs such as the kidney. It can also cause diarrhea and turns skin and eyes into a yellow color. Too much zinc oxide may also result in a overdose and affect the digestive system. [5]



  1. Peifer, John Chemical Properties What is Zinc Oxide?. Accessed April 20th, 2018
  2. Zinc Oxide Wikipedia. Accessed April 20th, 2018. Author Unknown.
  3. History of Zinc Oxide Zinc Oxide TCO. Accessed April 20th, 2018. Author Unknown.
  4. Dupree, Rachelle Zinc Oxide: Historical Uses and Modern Benefits Dermascope. Accessed April 20th, 2018.
  5. Perkins, Sharon Is Zinc Oxide Safe During Pregnancy? Live Strong. Accessed April 20th, 2018.