Use of this mineral building material
Renowned in the ancient world as alabaster, the material for creating sculptures, gypsum is the mineral having calcium, sulphur, oxygen, and water in its chemical composition. Gypsum occurs as a natural mineral in the substrata of the earth. Popularity of gypsum comes from its use in many plaster varieties, use as a soil conditioner, to make blackboard chalk, to make plaster board, and casts for treating broken bones in the medical industry.
Sources of gypsum
Today, we get about 50% of the gypsum from the filtered residue of flue gases. We place filters on the flue gas chimneys to arrest the atmospheric pollution. Otherwise, you can mine for gypsum commercially.
When you heat gypsum to 350° C, it releases the water present and we get calcined gypsum or Plaster of Paris (POP). The hardening or setting occurs within minutes of combining with water. This way, gypsum plaster of Paris finds use in the construction industry for paving the outer surfaces of buildings and for making decorative motifs in landscaping.
The plaster board does not have adequate strength compared to concrete structures. So, it cannot be used in places where the load acts. It has good heat resisting properties and so you can use it as an insulator. Just plaster the wall you want to insulate with gypsum plaster and you will save substantially on the electric bills.
Shortcoming of gypsum
One drawback of gypsum plaster is it dissolves in water. Due to this, you cannot use it in the bathrooms or in areas where moisture is present. Further, you need a skilled mason to work with gypsum plaster. This raises the labour costs. One must do the plastering with a high degree of skill.
Uses for this natural mineral
- One can use gypsum blocks in building construction.
- We can increase the aesthetic value of the interiors with plaster boards containing flowers and figures.
- The clay of the fast-dry tennis court needs gypsum.
- Used as tofu coagulant in the food industry.
- It helps grain coagulating in the mushroom cultivation.
- Dentist use it to make impressions.
- Removes considerable amount of lead and arsenic from polluted waters.
Being found abundantly in nature, gypsum finds use in many fields. However, its popularity is due to the way one can mould and sculpt it.