Elements for Kids
Sodium is an alkali metal located in the first group or column of the periodic table. The sodium atom has 11 electrons and 11 protons with one valence electron in the outer shell.
Characteristics and Properties
Sodium in its pure form is very reactive. It is a very soft metal that can be easily cut with a knife. It is silvery-white in color and burns with a yellow flame.
Sodium will float on water, but it will also react violently when coming into contact with water. When sodium reacts with water it produces sodium hydroxide and hydrogen gas.
Sodium is most famous for its many useful compounds such as table salt (NaCl), sodium nitrate (Na2CO3), and baking soda (NaHCO3). Many of the compounds that sodium forms are water-soluble, meaning they dissolve in water.
Where is sodium found on Earth?
Sodium is the sixth most abundant element on Earth. It is never found in its pure form because it is so reactive. It is only found in compounds such as sodium chloride (NaCL) or table salt. Sodium chloride is found in ocean water (salt water), salt lakes, and underground deposits. Pure sodium can be recovered from sodium chloride through electrolysis.
How is sodium used today?
Sodium is primarily used in the form of compounds with other elements.
The average person uses sodium every day in the form of table salt in their food. Table salt is the compound sodium chloride (NaCl). Table salt is needed for animals to survive, but most people use it for adding flavor to their food.
Another popular use of sodium is in baking soda which is the chemical compound sodium bicarbonate. Baking soda is used as a leavening agent in cooking foods like pancakes, cakes, and breads.
A lot of soaps are forms of sodium salts. Sodium hydroxide is a key ingredient when making soaps.
Other applications include de-icing, medicine, organic chemistry, street lights, and cooling nuclear reactors.
How was it discovered?
Sodium was discovered by English chemist Sir Humphry Davy in 1807. He isolated sodium by applying electrolysis to caustic soda.
Where did sodium get its name?
Sodium gets its name from the English word soda. This is because Sir Humphry Davy used caustic soda when isolating the element. The symbol Na comes from the Latin word natrium.
Only one of the 20 known isotopes of sodium is stable, sodium-23.
Interesting Facts about Sodium
- Sir Humphry Davy discovered sodium only a few days after he discovered potassium.
- Sodium comprises around 2.6% of the Earth's crust.
- It helps to maintain the proper fluid balance in the body's cells and also helps us to digest our food.
- Our bodies lose sodium when we sweat. However, most people eat far more sodium than their bodies actually need. If the body runs low on sodium, it can cause the muscles to cramp.
- Sodium is considered non-toxic, but too much of it can cause high blood pressure.
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