arsenic(III) oxide

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A white or colourless compound, As4O6, existing in three solid forms. The commonest has cubic or octahedral crystals (r.d. 3.87; sublimes at 193°C) and is soluble in water, ethanol, and alkali solutions. It occurs naturally as arsenolite. A vitreous form can be prepared by slow condensation of the vapour (r.d. 3.74); its solubility in cold water is more than double that of the cubic form. The third modification, which occurs naturally as claudetite, has monoclinic crystals (r.d. 4.15). Arsenic(III) oxide is obtained commercially as a byproduct from the smelting of nonferrous sulphide ores; it may be produced in the laboratory by burning elemental arsenic in air. The structure of the molecule is similar to that of P4O6, with a tetrahedral arrangement of As atoms edge linked by oxygen bridges. Arsenic(III) oxide is acidic; its solutions were formerly called arsenious acid (technically, arsenic(III) acid). It forms arsenate(III) salts (formerly called arsenites). Arsenic(III) oxide is extremely toxic and is used as a poison for vermin; trace doses are used for a variety of medicinal purposes. It is also used for producing opalescent glasses and enamels.

Subjects: Chemistry.

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