View random article

What Is Sodium?

Sodium is a mineral, and one of the ten most abundant minerals on Earth. Its chemical symbol is “Na” which is the abbreviation of natrium, a Latin word. It has the atomic number of 11. It was first isolated in 1807 by Sir Humphrey Davy, who “discovered” it when he ran an electric current through a sodium compound.

Sodium can be found in seawater and in lots of compounds such as sodium chloride (or, as people know it, table salt). Sodium is also a key ingredient in many consumer products.

Not many people realize that pure sodium is a metal. It has a tendency to oxidize the moment it comes in contact with air, and when this happens, it forms a very thick “shell.” It can also explode when it is combined to water (a favorite trick of Chemistry teachers, to entertain otherwise-bored students). However, sodium is often stable once it bonds with other elements. However, care must be taken when working with sodium hydroxide (which can be quite dangerous!) Sodium chloride, on the other hand, is essential to life. The body needs a certain amount of salt for a healthy diet (though, admittedly, most go overboard and take in too much of a good thing!).

Sodium is used for many industrial processes and products. It is a key ingredient in making everything from soaps to engines. This metal is also used in refining and in creating metal alloys. Since it reacts so quickly to moisture (and there is moisture, even minute amounts, in air) anyone who handles sodium needs to take extra precautions and use tools like tongs.

Featured in Science