Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3):  Formula, Properties, Synthesis

Sodium carbonate, also referred to as washing soda or soda ash, is a chemical compound with the formula Na2CO3. It is classified as the sodium salt of carbonic acid and possesses the characteristics of being a moderately strong basic substance that does not readily evaporate.

The sodium carbonate compound is frequently encountered in the crystalline heptahydrate form, which undergoes rapid efflorescence resulting in the formation of a white powder referred to as the monohydrate. The compound exhibits a revitalizing alkaline flavor and can be acquired through the extraction technique that entails the combustion of various botanical specimens. The commercial production of this compound entails synthesizing significant amounts from readily available sodium chloride.

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Sodium Carbonate Formula

Sodium carbonate is classified as a diazonium salt derived from carbonic acid, denoted by the chemical formula Na2CO3. This substance is commonly referred to as soda crystals, soda ash, or washing soda. The aforementioned inorganic compound exhibits solubility in water, leading to the formation of carbonic acid and sodium hydroxide upon dissolution in aqueous solution. In its unadulterated state, the substance manifests as a white powder devoid of any discernible scent. Sodium bicarbonate possesses potent alkaline properties and functions as an effective antacid.

Sodium carbonate can be synthesized through four distinct methods:

(i) The Solvay process

(ii) Labnac process

(iii) Dual-process and

(iv) Electrolytic process

Due to its weak acidic nature, the compound exhibits limited solubility in ethanol and is considered insoluble in other alcohols. One of the significant applications of sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) is its utilization as a water-softening agent.

Occurrence of Sodium Carbonate

Sodium carbonate exhibits solubility in aqueous solutions and possesses the propensity to manifest in arid regions, particularly within mineral deposits known as evaporites, which arise as a consequence of the evaporation of seasonal lakes.

Throughout ancient history, the extraction of natron minerals from arid lakebeds in Egypt has been a prominent practice. This mineral, renowned for its multifaceted applications, was utilized in the embalming process of mummification and played a pivotal role in the nascent stages of glass production.

The manifestation of a dehydrated form of sodium carbonate, referred to as natrite, is relatively infrequent within the natural environment.

Synthesis of Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3)

The production of sodium carbonate is currently limited to the Solvay process as the sole method of manufacturing.

The Solvay process, an industrially significant chemical procedure, was unveiled in 1861 by the esteemed Belgian chemist, Ernest Solvay. This particular process exhibits a higher degree of cost-effectiveness in comparison to alternative methodologies. The sole byproduct generated is calcium chloride.

During this procedure, carbon dioxide and ammonia are introduced into a chilled, fully saturated solution of sodium chloride.

The reactions result in the formation of sodium hydrogen carbonate, which exhibits limited solubility in the presence of sodium ions, leading to near-complete precipitation. The substance is separated through the process of filtration and subsequently subjected to combustion in order to generate sodium carbonate.

The components utilized in this procedure are easily accessible and cost-effective. The substances under consideration are:

(i) Salt brine (NaCl)

(ii) Ammonia (NH3) and

(iii) Limestone (CaCO3)

During this process, the production of CaCl2 is a significant by-product.

The chemical reactions can be mathematically represented by the following equation:

2 NH3 + H2O + CO2 → (NH4)2CO3
(NH4)2CO3 + H2O + CO2 → 2 NH4HCO3

The introduction of sodium chloride into a solution containing ammonium ions (NH4+) and bicarbonate ions (HCO3–) leads to the formation of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), which is the least soluble compound. Subsequently, it is subjected to filtration. Following this, the substance undergoes the process of filtration.

NH4HCO3 + NaCl → NH4Cl + NaHCO3

The process of heating sodium bicarbonate results in the formation of sodium carbonate (Na2CO3).

2 NaHCO3 → Na2CO3 + CO2 + H2O

The carbon dioxide gas (CO2) that is released can be recycled for further use.

The process involves the dissolution of anhydrous sodium carbonate in water, followed by the recrystallization of the compound to obtain washing soda crystals that incorporate 10 water molecules within their crystalline structure.

Properties of Sodium Carbonate

Sodium Carbonate Na2CO3
Molecular Weight / Molar Mass105.9888 g/mol
Density2.54 g/cm³
Boiling Point1600 °C
Melting Point851 °C

Chemical Properties of Sodium Carbonate

Anhydrous sodium carbonate is stable towards heat. The substance undergoes a phase transition without undergoing any chemical decomposition at a temperature of 852 °C.

The mild alkalinity of aqueous solutions of sodium carbonate can be attributed to the process of hydrolysis, which results in the release of hydroxide ions OHaq.

Na2CO3 (s) + 2 H2O (l) → H2CO3 (aq) + 2 Na+ (aq) + 2 OH (aq)

Aqueous solutions containing sodium carbonate exhibit the capacity to undergo carbon dioxide absorption from the surrounding atmosphere, resulting in the formation of sodium hydrogen carbonate.

Na2CO3 (aq) + H2O + CO2 (g) → 2 NaHCO3 (aq)

The chemical compound sodium carbonate exhibits a propensity to engage in chemical reactions with acids, including those of a mild nature such as those found in vegetable sources, for instance, lime juice. This reaction results in the liberation of carbon dioxide gas.

Na2CO3 (aq) + 2 H+ (aq) → 2Na+ (aq) + H2O (l) + CO2 (g)

Na2CO3 (aq) + 2 HCl (aq) → 2 NaCl (aq) + H2O (l) + CO2 (g)

Structure of Sodium Carbonate

  • The molecular composition of Sodium Carbonate consists of two Sodium atoms, three Oxygen atoms, and one Carbon atom.
  • The polyatomic anion Carbonate is characterized by its negative charge, whereas each discrete cation of Sodium bears a positive charge.
  • Consequently, Sodium Carbonate can be characterized as an electrically neutral molecule.

Applications of Sodium Carbonate

Some of the important applications of sodium carbonate are listed here:

  • Due to its remarkable solubility, soda ash finds extensive application in a diverse range of chemical reactions, primarily serving as a chromogenic agent, surfactant, and nutrient source, and contributing to the enameling procedure as well as the petroleum industry.
  • Soda ash plays a crucial role in various applications within the glass manufacturing industry, such as the manufacturing of glass containers and fiberglass padding. Its significance lies primarily in its ability to effectively lower the melting point of silica, a key component in glass production.
  • Soda ash exhibits promising potential as a feasible alternative to phosphates in the manufacturing of household detergents. Moreover, it is noteworthy to mention that a multitude of cleansing agents and detergents include soda ash as a fundamental constituent in their formulations.
  • Sodium carbonate serves as a food additive with multiple purposes, encompassing its utilization as an anticaking agent, raising agent, and stabilizer. Sodium carbonate is utilized in culinary contexts, specifically in the preparation of ramen noodles, as it plays a role in enhancing the genuine flavor characteristics of this particular dish.
  • Sodium carbonate is utilized to control the pH levels in aqueous solutions. The deposition of carbonate effectively alleviates the occurrence of hard water, which is distinguished by the high concentration of magnesium and calcium ions, making it suitable for application as a water-softening agent.



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Jyoti Bashyal

Jyoti Bashyal, a graduate of the Central Department of Chemistry, is an avid explorer of the molecular realm. Fueled by her fascination with chemical reactions and natural compounds, she navigates her field's complexities with precision and passion. Outside the lab, Jyoti is dedicated to making science accessible to all. She aspires to deepen audiences' understanding of the wonders of various scientific subjects and their impact on the world by sharing them with a wide range of readers through her writing.

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