Sodium Chloride (Industrial Salt)
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Sodium chloride, also known as common salt, table salt, or halite, is a chemical compound with the formula NaCl. Sodium chloride is the salt most responsible for the salinity of the ocean and of the extracellular fluid of many multicellular organisms. As the main ingredient in edible salt, it is commonly used as a condiment and food preservative. In one gram of sodium chloride, there is approximately 0.3933 grams of sodium, and 0.6067 g of chlorine.
Production and use
Salt is currently produced by evaporation of seawater or brine from other sources, such as brine wells and salt lakes, and by mining rock salt, called halite. In 2002, world production was estimated at 210 million metric tonnes, the top five producers being the United States (40.3 million tonnes), China (32.9), Germany (17.7), India (14.5), and Canada (12.3).
While most people are familiar with the many uses of salt in cooking, they might be unaware that salt is used in a plethora of applications, from manufacturing pulp and paper to setting dyes in textiles and fabric, to producing soaps and detergents. In most of Canada and the northern USA, large quantities of rock salt are used to help clear highways of ice during winter, although “Road Salt” loses its melting ability at temperatures below -15°C to -20°C (5°F to -4°F).
Salt is also the raw material used to produce chlorine which itself is required for the production of many modern materials including PVC and pesticides.
Industrially, elemental chlorine is usually produced by the electrolysis of sodium chloride dissolved in water. Along with chlorine, this chloralkali process yields hydrogen gas and sodium hydroxide, according to the chemical equation
2NaCl + 2H2O → Cl2 + H2 + 2NaOH
Sodium metal is produced commercially through the electrolysis of liquid sodium chloride. This is done in a Down’s cell in which sodium chloride is mixed with calcium chloride to lower the melting point below 700 °C. As calcium is more electropositive than sodium, no calcium will be formed at the cathode. This method is less expensive than the previous method of electrolyzing sodium hydroxide.
Sodium chloride is used in other chemical processes for the large-scale production of compounds containing sodium or chlorine. In the Solvay process, sodium chloride is used for producing sodium carbonate and calcium chloride. In the Mannheim process and in the Hargreaves process, it is used for the production of sodium sulfate and hydrochloric acid.
Many microorganisms cannot live in an overly salty environment: water is drawn out of their cells by osmosis. For this reason salt is used to preserve some foods, such as smoked bacon or fish and can also be used to detach leeches that have attached themselves to feed. It has also been used to disinfect wounds (although it causes a great deal of pain). In medieval times salt would be rubbed into household surfaces as a cleansing agent.
Sodium chloride forms crystals with cubic symmetry. In these, the larger chloride ions, shown to the right as green spheres, are arranged in a cubic close-packing, while the smaller sodium ions, shown to the right as blue spheres, fill the octahedral gaps between them.
Each ion is surrounded by six ions of the other kind. This same basic structure is found in many other minerals, and is known as the halite structure. This arrangement is known as cubic close packed (ccp).
It is held together with an ionic bond and electrostatic forces.
Salt is also known in the chemical world as a nuclear additive.
While salt was once a scarce commodity in history, industrialized production has now made salt plentiful. About 51% of world output is now used by cold countries to de-ice roads in winter, both in grit bins and spread by winter service vehicles. This works because salt and water form an eutectic mixture. For a solution of table salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) in water, the freezing temperature becomes -21 °C (-6 °F) under controlled lab conditions. In practice, however, sodium chloride can melt ice only down to about -9 °C (15 °F).
Table salt sold for consumption today is not pure sodium chloride. In 1911 Magnesium carbonate was first added to salt to make it flow more freely. In 1924 trace amounts of iodine in form of sodium iodide, potassium iodide or potassium iodate were first added, creating iodized salt to reduce the incidence of simple goiter.
Salt for de-icing in the UK typically contains sodium hexacyanoferrate (II) at less than 100ppm as an anti-caking agent. In recent years this additive has also been used in table salt.
Chemicals used in de-icing salts are mostly found to be sodium chloride (NaCl) or calcium chloride (CaCl2). Both are similar and are effective in de-icing roads. When these chemicals are produced, they are mined/made, crushed to fine granules, then treated with an anti-caking agent. Adding salt lowers the freezing point of the water, which allows the liquid to be stable at lower temperatures and allows the ice to melt.
Alternative de-icing chemicals have also been used. Chemicals such as calcium magnesium acetate are being produced. These chemicals have few of the negative chemical effects on the environment commonly associated with NaCl and CaCl2.