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Submitted by on May 17, 2021

Sodium carbonate, Na2CO3 (also known as washing soda, soda crystals, and soda crystals), is an inorganic compound of the formula Na2CO3 and its various hydrates. All forms are white, water-soluble salts that give moderately alkaline solutions in water. Historically, it was extracted from the ash of plants growing in sodium-rich soils. Because the ash of these sodium-rich plants was markedly different from the wood ash (once used to make potash), sodium carbonate became known as soda ash and produced in large quantities from sodium chloride and limestone obtained by the Solvay method.

Sodium carbonate is obtained in the form of three hydrates and anhydrous salt:

1) Decahydrate of sodium carbonate (natron), Na2CO3 · 10H2O, which is easily separated to form a monohydrate.

2) Sodium carbonate heptahydrate (unknown in mineral form), Na2CO3 · 7H2O.


3) Sodium carbonate monohydrate (thermonatrite), Na2CO3 H2O. Also known as crystal carbonate.

4) Anhydrous sodium carbonate, also known as calcined soda, is formed when hydrates are heated. Sodium bicarbonate also forms when sodium hydrogen carbonate is heated (calcined), for example, at the last stage of the Solvay process.

Decahydrate is formed from aqueous solutions that crystallize in the temperature range from -2.1 to +32.0 ° C, heptahydrate in a narrow range from 32.0 to 35.4 ° C, and above this temperature, monohydrate is formed. In dry air, decahydrate and heptahydrate lose water to form monohydrate. Other hydrates have been reported, for example, with 2.5 units of water per unit of sodium carbonate (“pentahemihydrate”). As for the most widespread use, sodium carbonate is used in the production of glass, paper, rayon, soaps, and detergents.

Sodium carbonate serves as a flux for silica, lowering the melting point of the mixture to something achievable without special materials. This “soda” is slightly soluble in water, so a little calcium carbonate is added to the molten mixture to make the glass insoluble. Bottle and window glass (soda-lime glass) is produced by melting such mixtures of sodium carbonate, calcium carbonate, and silica sand (silicon dioxide (SiO2)). When these materials are heated, carbonates release carbon dioxide. Thus, sodium carbonate is a source of sodium oxide. Soda-lime glass has been the most common form of glass for centuries.

Sodium carbonate is used to soften water by removing Mg2 + and Ca2 +. These ions form insoluble solid precipitates when treated with carbonate ions:

Ca2 + + CO32- → CaCO3

Sodium carbonate is a cheap and water-soluble source of carbonate ions.

Sodium carbonate is a food additive (E500) used as an acidity regulator, anti-astringent, enhancer, and stabilizer. It is one of the ingredients in Kansui (か ん 水), a solution of alkaline salts that gives ramen noodles their characteristic flavor and texture. It is used in the production of snus to stabilize the pH of the final product. Sodium carbonate is used in the production of sherbet powder.

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