Carbon dioxide (chemical formula CO2) is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. It is a gas at standard temperature and pressure and exists in Earth's atmosphere in this state, as a trace gas at a concentration of 0.039% by volume.
Carbon dioxide has no liquid state at pressures below 5.1 standard atmospheres (520 kPa). At 1 atmosphere (near mean sea level pressure), the gas deposits directly to a solid at temperatures below −78 °C (−108 °F; 195 K) and the solid sublimes directly to a gas above −78 °C. In its solid state, carbon dioxide is commonly called dry ice.
CO2 is an acidic oxide: an aqueous solution turns litmus from blue to pink. It is the anhydride of carbonic acid, an acid which is unstable in aqueous solution, from which it cannot be concentrated. In organisms carbonic acid production is catalysed by the enzyme, carbonic anhydrase.
Carbon dioxide was one of the first gases to be described as a substance distinct from air. In the seventeenth century, the Flemish chemist Jan Baptist van Helmont observed that when he burned charcoal in a closed vessel, the mass of the resulting ash was much less than that of the original charcoal. His interpretation was that the rest of the charcoal had been transmuted into an invisible substance he termed a "gas" or "wild spirit" (spiritus sylvestre).
The properties of carbon dioxide were studied more thoroughly in the 1750s by the Scottish physician Joseph Black. He found that limestone (calcium carbonate) could be heated or treated with acids to yield a gas he called "fixed air." He observed that the fixed air was denser than air and supported neither flame nor animal life. Black also found that when bubbled through an aqueous solution of lime (calcium hydroxide), it would precipitate calcium carbonate. He used this phenomenon to illustrate that carbon dioxide is produced by animal respiration and microbial fermentation. In 1772, English chemist Joseph Priestley published a paper entitled Impregnating Water with Fixed Air in which he described a process of dripping sulfuric acid (or oil of vitriol as Priestley knew it) on chalk in order to produce carbon dioxide, and forcing the gas to dissolve by agitating a bowl of water in contact with the gas. This was the invention of Soda water.
Carbon dioxide was first liquefied (at elevated pressures) in 1823 by Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday. The earliest description of solid carbon dioxide was given by Charles Thilorier, who in 1834 opened a pressurized container of liquid carbon dioxide, only to find that the cooling produced by the rapid evaporation of the liquid yielded a "snow" of solid CO2.
Carbon dioxide is mainly produced as an unrecovered side product of four technologies: combustion of fossil fuels, production of hydrogen by steam reforming, ammonia synthesis, and fermentation. It can be obtained by or from air distillation, however, this method is inefficient.