Carbonation is the chemical reaction of carbon dioxide to give carbonates, bicarbonates, and carbonic acid.[1] In chemistry, the term is sometimes used in place of carboxylation, which refers to the formation of carboxylic acids.

In inorganic chemistry and geology, carbonation is common. Metal hydroxides (MOH) and metal oxides (M'O) react with CO2 to give bicarbonates and carbonates:

MOH + CO2 → M(HCO3)
M'O + CO2 → M'CO3

Selected carbonations

Carbonic anhydrase

In mammalian physiology, transport of carbon dioxide to the lungs involves a carbonation reaction catalyzed by the enzyme carbonic anhydrase. In the absence of such catalysts, carbon dioxide cannot be expelled sufficient rate to support metabolic needs. The enzyme harbors a zinc aquo complex, which captures carbon dioxide to give a zinc bicarbonate:[2]

[(imidazole)3ZnOH]+ + CO2 ⇌ [(imidazole)3ZnOCO2H]+

Behavior of concrete

In reinforced concrete, the chemical reaction between carbon dioxide In the air and calcium hydroxide and hydrated calcium silicate in the concrete is known as neutralisation. The similar reaction in which calcium hydroxide from cement reacts with carbon dioxide and forms insoluble calcium carbonate is carbonatation.

Urea production

Carbonation of ammonia is one step in the industrial production of urea:In 2020, worldwide production capacity was approximately 180 million tonnes.[3] As a fertilizer, it is a source of nitrogen for plants. Urea production plants are almost always located adjacent to the site where the ammonia is manufactured.[4]

2 NH3 + CO2 ⇌ [NH4]+[NH2COO]

In the subsequent urea conversion: the ammonium carbamate is decomposed into urea, releasing water:

[NH4]+[NH2COO] ⇌ CO(NH2)2 + H2O


Henry's law states that PCO2=KBxCO2 where PCO2 is the partial pressure of CO2 gas above the solution. KB is Henry's law constant. KB increases as temperature increases. xCO2 is the mole fraction of CO2 gas in the solution. According to Henry's law carbonation increases in a solution as temperature decreases.[5]

Since carbonation is the process of giving compounds like carbonic acid (liq) from CO2 (gas) {i.e. making liquid from gasses} thus the partial pressure of CO2 has to decrease or the mole fraction of CO2 in solution has to increase {PCO2/xCO2 = KB} and both these two conditions support increase in carbonation.


  1. ^ "Impregnation or treatment with carbon dioxide; conversion into a carbonate."Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2018.
  2. ^ Sattler, Wesley; Parkin, Gerard (2012). "Structural Characterization of Zinc Bicarbonate Compounds Relevant to the Mechanism of Action of Carbonic Anhydrase". Chemical Science. 3 (6): 2015. doi:10.1039/c2sc20167d.
  3. ^ "Urea production statistics". International Fertilizer Association. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  4. ^ Meessen, Jozef H. (2012). "Urea". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a27_333.pub2. ISBN 978-3527306732.
  5. ^ "Henry's Law". ChemEngineering. Tangient LLC. Archived from the original on 2 June 2017. Retrieved 7 November 2017.