Sodium is an essential element for life. It is present in fairly high quantities in the Earth’s oceans and rivers. Here is a list of some of the common uses of sodium in today’s world.
Uses of Sodium
- Sodium is used to descale metals. This gives the metal a smooth surface.
- Sodium metal is also used to refine metals (such as zirconium and potassium) from their compounds.
- Molten (liquid) sodium is used as a coolant in many nuclear reactors. It can be used on its own or can be combined with potassium.
- Sodium is added to fatty acids to make sodium salts. These are much harder (with higher melting points) than potassium soaps.
- The sodium fusion test uses the high reactivity, high solubility and low melting point to determine the presence of halogens, nitrogen and sulfur in a sample.
- Sodium can be used as a reducing agent- changing some organic molecules into new forms.
- Sodium vapor lamps (often used in street lights) are a very efficient way of producing light from electricity. These lamps give off a very distinctive yellow-orange color.
- Sodium chloride is an important heat transfer material.
- Sodium can be used alone or with potassium to dry solvents (called a desiccant).