Bone ash is a white material produced by the calcination of bones. Typical bone ash consists of about 55.82% calcium oxide, 42.39% phosphorus pentoxide, and 1.79% water. The exact composition of these compounds varies depending upon the type of bones being used, but generally the formula for bone ash is: Ca5(OH)(PO4)3. Bone ash usually has a density around 3.10 g/mL and a melting point of 1670 °C (3038 °F). Most bones retain their cellular structure through calcination.
The raw material for bone china is about 50% bone ash derived from animal bones. These bones undergo multiple processing stages during which all meat is removed and the bone is completely cleaned. Once cleaned, the bone is heated to about 1000 °C (1832 °F) so that all additional organic material is removed from the bone and the bone becomes sterilized. Lastly, the newly sterilized bone is ground with water into fine particles which can be used as a raw material for bone china. Bone ash plays an important role in the creation of bone china, as the phosphate of the bone generates beta tricalcium phosphate, and other compounds from the bone create a calcium crystal called anorthite. Synthetic alternatives dicalcium phosphate and tricalcium phosphate are used as substitutes for bone ash. Most bone china are produced with synthetic alternatives rather than bone ash.
Bone ash is used in machine shops for various purposes. Examples include polishing compounds, protective powder coatings for metal tools, and as a sealant for seams and cracks. As a powder coating, bone ash has many unique characteristics. First of all, the powder has high thermal stability, so it maintains its form in extremely high temperatures. The powder coating itself adheres to metal well and does not drip, run, cause much corrosion, or create noticeable streaks. Using the bone ash is easy as well, as it comes in a powder form, is easy to clean up, and does not separate into smaller parts (therefore requiring no extra mixing).
In cupellation, base metals in an impure sample are oxidized with the help of lead and are vaporized and absorbed into a porous cupellation material, typically made of magnesium or calcium. This leaves the precious metals which do not oxidize behind. Bone ash's extremely porous and calcareous structure as well as its high melting point makes it an ideal candidate for cupellation.
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