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The Element Sodium

Sodium is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Na (Natrium in Latin) and atom number 11. Sodium is a soft, waxy, silvery reactive metal belonging to the alkali metals that is abundant in natural compounds (especially halite). It is highly reactive, burns with a yellow flame, oxidizes in air and reacts violently with water, forcing it to be kept under oil.

Name, Symbol, Number sodium, Na, 11
Series alkali metal
Group, Period, Block 1 (IA), 3 , s
Density, Hardness 968 kg/m3, 0.5
Appearance silvery white
Atomic properties
Atomic weight 22.989770 amu
Atomic radius (calc.) 180 (190) pm
Covalent radius 154 pm
van der Waals radius 227 pm
Electron configuration [Ne]3s1
e- 's per energy level 2, 8, 1
Oxidation states (Oxide) 1 (strong base)
Crystal structure Cubic body centered
Physical properties
State of matter solid (nonmagnetic)
Melting point 370.87 K (207.9 °F)
Boiling point 1156 K (1621 °F)
Molar volume 23.78 ×10-6 m3/mol
Heat of vaporization 96.96 kJ/mol
Heat of fusion 2.598 kJ/mol
Vapor pressure 1.43×10-5Pa at 1234 K
Electronegativity 0.93 (Pauling scale)
Specific heat capacity 1230 J/(kg*K)
Electrical conductivity 21 106/m ohm
Thermal conductivity 141 W/(m*K)
SI units & STP are used except where noted.

Notable characteristics

Like the other alkali metals, sodium is a soft, light-weight, silvery white, reactive element that is never found unbound in nature. Sodium floats in water and decomposes it releasing hydrogen and forming hydroxide. If ground to a fine enough power, sodium will ignite spontaneously in water. However, this metal does not normally ignite in air below 388 kelvin.


Sodium in its metallic form is an essential component in the making of esters and in the manufacture of organic compounds. This alkali metal is also a component of sodium chloride (NaCl) which is vital to life. Other uses:

  • In certain alloys to improve their structure,
  • In soap (in combination with fatty acids),
  • To descale (make its surface smooth) metal, and
  • To purify molten metals.
  • In sodium vapor lamps, an efficient means of producing light from electricity.

NaK, an alloy of sodium and potassium, is an important heat transfer material.


Sodium (English, soda) has long been recognized in compounds, but was not isolated until 1807 by Sir Humphry Davy through the electrolysis of caustic soda. In medieval Europe a compound of sodium with the Latin name of sodanum was used as a headache remedy. Sodium's symbol, Na, comes for the neo-Latin name for a common sodium compound named natrium, which comes from the Greek nítron, a kind of natural salt


Sodium is relatively abundant in stars and the D spectral lines of this element are among the most prominent in star light. Sodium makes up about 2.6% of the Earth's crust making it the fourth most abundant element overall and the most abundant alkali metal. It is now produced commercially through the electrolysis of completely dry fused sodium chloride. This method is less expensive than the previous method of electrolyzing sodium hydroxide. Metallic sodium cost about 15 to 20 US cents per pound in 1997 but reagent grade (ACS) sodium cost about US$35 per pound in 1990. It is the cheapest of all metals by volume.


Sodium chloride, better known as common salt, is the most common compound of sodium, but sodium occurs in many other minerals, such as amphibole, cryolite, halite, soda niter, zeolite, etc. Sodium compounds are important to the chemical, glass, metal, paper, petroleum, soap, and textileindustries. Soap is generally a sodium salt of certain fatty acids.

The sodium compounds that are the most important to industry are common salt (NaCl), soda ash (Na2CO3), baking soda (NaHCO3), caustic soda (NaOH), Chile saltpeter (NaNO3), di- and tri-sodium phosphates, sodium thiosulfate (hypo, Na2S2O3 * 5H2O), and borax (Na2B4O7 * 10H2O).


There are thirteen isotopes of sodium that have been recognized. The only stable isotope is Na-23. Sodium has two radioactive cosmogenic isotopes (Na-22, half-life = 2.605 years; Na-24, half-life = ~ 15 hours).


In its powdered form sodium is explosive in water and a poison combined and uncombined with many other elements. This metal should be handled carefully at all times. Sodium must be maintained in an inert atmosphere and contact with water and other substances that sodium reacts with should be avoided.

Physiology and Na+ ions

Sodium ions play a diverse role in many physiological processes. Excitable cells, for example, rely on the entry of Na+ to cause a depolarization. An example of this is signal transduction in the human neural system.


External links


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