Sodium hydroxide is one of the most common inorganic bases. It is also known as caustic soda, lye, ascarite, white caustic and sodium hydrate. This ionic compound consists of sodium cation and hydroxide anion. Its chemical formula: NaOH, CAS№ 1310-73-2.
At the room temperature, the substance resembles solid odorless opaque waxy crystals of white color. Caustic soda is hygroscopic and readily absorbs carbon dioxide and moisture from the air. It is highly soluble in water, with lower solubility in polar solvents. The compound is insoluble in non-polar solvents, such as ether.
One of the distinctive properties of caustic soda is to create exothermic reaction while dissolving the solid inorganic in water. In this case, the chemist should be extremely careful to avoid splashing. The pure lye melts at 318oC, and boils at 1,388oC. Its density is 2.13 g/cm3.
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This substance is highly volatile and takes part in multiple manufacturing processes. Among the most widespread sodium hydroxide uses, the most often this chemical is applied to:
- the manufacturing of cleaning and disinfectant products;
- control water acidity and remove heavy metals from it;
- fuel cell production;
- aluminum ore processing;
- food production, e.g. to process cocoa, chocolate, soft drinks, for chemical peeling of fruits and vegetables, etc.;
- chemical pulping of wood for making paper;
- the fabrication of different medicines.
Sodium hydroxide, like other corrosive acids, may cause chemical burns and induce permanent blindness upon eye contact. Besides, it is corrosive to some metals and can cause damage to glass. In order to ensure safety, careful storage and handling including all the necessary precautions is needed.