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sodium carbonate ip

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Sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda, soda ash and soda crystals, and in the monohydrate form as crystal carbonate), Na2CO3, is the water-soluble sodium salt of carbonic acid.

It most commonly occurs as a crystalline decahydrate, which readily effloresces to form a white powder, the monohydrate. Pure sodium carbonate is a white, odorless powder that is hygroscopic (absorbs moisture from the air). It has a strongly alkaline taste, and forms a moderately basic solution in water. Sodium carbonate is well known domestically for its everyday use as a water softener. Historically it was extracted from the ashes of plants growing in sodium-rich soils, such as vegetation from the Middle East, kelp from Scotland and seaweed from Spain. Because the ashes of these sodium-rich plants were noticeably different from ashes of timber (used to create potash), they became known as “soda ash”.It is synthetically produced in large quantities from salt (sodium chloride) and limestoneby a method known as the Solvay process.

The manufacture of glass is one of the most important uses of sodium carbonate. Sodium carbonate acts as a flux for silica, lowering the melting point of the mixture to something achievable without special materials. This “soda glass” is mildly water-soluble, so some calcium carbonate is added to the melt mixture to make the glass produced insoluble. This type of glass is known as soda lime glass: “soda” for the sodium carbonate and “lime” for the calcium carbonate. Soda lime glass has been the most common form of glass for centuries.

Sodium carbonate is also used as a relatively strong base in various settings. For example, it is used as a pH regulator to maintain stable alkaline conditions necessary for the action of the majority of photographic film developing agents. It acts as an alkali because when dissolved in water, it dissociates into the weak acid: carbonic acid and the strong alkali: sodium hydroxide. This gives sodium carbonate in solution the ability to attack metals such as aluminium with the release of hydrogen gas.

Soda ash is most commonly used in:

Manufacture of glass, where it reduces the melting temperature of the sand used in glass formation and helps in the ‘workability’ or shaping of glass articles such as tableware and float glass

Making soaps and detergents, where it is employed as a builder, or filler, to give a smoother surface,

Production of chemicals such as sodium silicate, sodium bicarbonate and percarbonate, and sodium chromate and dichromate,
Pulp and paper manufacture, water treatment, effluent treatment, metallurgy and drugs

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