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What is Gypsum?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Gypsum is the more common name for a mineral compound called calcium sulphate dihydroxide, or sulphate of lime. It is generally found underground near deposits of limestone or other minerals formed by evaporation. One of the most common forms of raw gypsum is a pure white crystal called alabaster. Another unprocessed type forms in desert terrain and its crystals resemble the petals of a flower. For this reason, many people refer to this form of calcium sulphate as the "desert rose."

Because the calcium and sulfur molecules in gypsum are chemically bound to water, this material is routinely heated in order to remove 50% to 75% of its original moisture. The resulting powder is called burnt gypsum, although its white or translucent color does not change. This dehydrated form is valued for its ability to solidify almost immediately after water is added to it. It is marketed as the molding agent Plaster of Paris, and is used to make ordinary schoolroom chalk.

Another common use for gypsum is the formation of drywall panels. During home construction, these panels are nailed into place to form a finished wall. Gypsum is naturally resistant to fire and heat, which helps it form a barrier between combustible wooden frames and the room itself. These drywall boards can also be cut to size without elaborate tools, making an ideal building material.

Gypsum is also used to strengthen soil weakened by too much clay. Gardeners routinely amend weak soil by adding a layer of this material, which does not change the soil's acidity levels. Gypsum-enriched soil can also be used as an alternative to adobe mud, which tends to disintegrate after years of exposure to rainwater.

Because of its hardening properties, gypsum is a popular ingredient in cement mixtures. It is also used as a mild abrasive in some toothpastes, since it is considered a non-toxic substance. On Moh's scale of mineral hardness, the compound is considered a 2, harder than talc but softer than limestone.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to About Mechanics, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon270039 — On May 21, 2012

So what is jesmonite?

By anon176177 — On May 15, 2011

does gypsum affect the health? one customer commented about that. what's the actual truth?

By anon39382 — On Aug 01, 2009

Is gypsum wall board available in 60" widths?

By anon17865 — On Sep 09, 2008

What is PH of Gypsum? Is it very alkaline?

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

Writer

As a frequent contributor to About Mechanics, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
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