Element of the Month August: Sodium
Our element of the month for August is sodium. Everyone knows it and comes into contact with it every day. Without sodium, there would be no life. Conduction between the nerve cells would not work.
Under normal conditions, sodium is a waxy, silvery, highly reactive metal. Sodium was discovered in 1807 by Humphry Davy after his self-study of chemistry – shortly after he had also depicted potassium.
The term “halite” is derived from the ancient Greek name for salt and stands for wealth. The term can be found in some city names, such as “Bad Reichenhall”.
It is the most common feedstock in the chemical industry. Around 70% is mined and around 30% is extracted from the sea or salt lakes. Half of the quantities produced are used in chlor-alkali electrolysis. In the so-called Solvay process, NaCl, CO2 and ammonia are used to produce NH4Cl, NaHCO3 and soda Na2CO3 as a flux for the glass and steel industry, for softening water, for detergents and much more.
Sodium, like other alkali metals, is a low-density light metal. It has a very good electricity and heat conductivity. Thanks to its low melting point of only 98 degrees Celsius, sodium is an optimal cooling medium for nuclear reactors.
As is well known, the undisputed number 1 energy storage system for electromobility is the lithium-ion battery. In the future, however, the sodium-oxygen battery could be a good alternative. The number of charging cycles is already higher than that of a lithium-oxygen battery.
For the most part, sodium is used for the production of sodium compounds such as sodium amide, sodium hydride or sodium cyanide. Sodium has a particularly water-attracting effect and is therefore used in the laboratory for drying. In addition, it is used as a reducing agent in metallurgy and gold panning.