What is sodium? (with photos)

Sodium is the main component of table salt.

Sodium is an abundant metallic element, an important mineral for all living organisms. It is also widely used industrially to make a variety of consumer goods. The soft metal also appears in an abundance of compounds, such as sodium chloride, better known as salt. It also exists in high concentrations in seawater and is among the 10 most abundant minerals in the earth’s crust.

Salt pills, which are made from sodium chloride.

In pure form, sodium is a soft, silvery gray, highly reactive metal. It is usually stored in a non-reactive substance as it oxidizes rapidly when exposed to air, quickly forming a thick layer. The element is also highly explosive when exposed to moisture and water, much to the delight of many chemistry students. Because it is so reactive, it is usually found naturally in compounds with other elements. Many of these compounds, like salt, are extremely stable and perfectly safe to handle. Others, such as sodium hydroxide, need to be handled with care as they can be dangerous.

Sodium is identified with the symbol Na and its atomic number is 11.

In the periodic table of the elements, sodium is identified with the symbol Na. This is a reference to a Latin word natrium, used to refer to a specific type of salt. Its atomic number is 11, placing it among other light chemical elements, and it was first isolated in 1807 by Sir Humphrey Davy, an extremely active chemist who was able to identify and isolate a wide range of chemical elements. Davy achieved this isolation by running an electric current through a sodium compound to separate the elements.

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Although Sir Davy certainly isolated the element, its existence was well understood before 1807. Humans have a long history with sodium and a variety of its compounds. Since the element is so vital to healthy living, it’s not surprising that sources like sodium chloride are highly appreciated by humans. A wide variety of other compounds were used by household and industrial manufacturing for centuries before the element was fully understood.

The element is extremely abundant on Earth and is heavily harvested and processed for manufacture. Soaps, metal alloys, metal refining, and engines rely heavily on sodium, and the metal is also used in lighting, chemistry, and countless other applications. The pure form requires careful handling as it is extremely caustic in the presence of even small amounts of moisture. It should be handled with tweezers and used under close supervision.

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