Get 10 Facts About the Element Sodium

Sodium burn
Sodium reacts violently with water, forming hydrogen gas, which ignites and burns with a yellow flame characteristic of sodium emission. Philip Evans / Getty Images

Sodium is an abundant element that is essential for human nutrition and important for many chemical processes. Here are 10 interesting facts about sodium.

  1. Sodium is a silvery-white metal belonging to Group 1 of the Periodic Table, which is the alkali metals group.
  2. Sodium is highly reactive! The pure metal is kept under oil or kerosene because it spontaneously ignites in water. It's interesting to note, sodium metal also floats on water!
  3. Room temperature sodium metal is soft enough that you can cut it with a butter knife.
  4. Sodium is an essential element for animal nutrition. In humans, sodium is important for maintaining fluid balance in the cells and throughout the body. The electric potential maintained by sodium ions is critical for nerve function.
  5. Sodium and it compounds are used for food preservation, cooling nuclear reactors, in sodium vapor lamps, to purify and refine other elements and compounds, and as a desiccant.
  6. There is only one stable isotope of sodium, 23Na.
  7. The symbol for sodium is Na, which comes from the Latin natrium or Arabic natrun or a similar-sounding Egyptian word, all referring to soda or sodium carbonate.
  8. Sodium is an abundant element. It is found in the sun and many other stars. It is the 6th most abundant element on Earth, comprising about 2.6% of the earth's crust. It is the most abundant alkali metal.
  1. Although it too reactive to occur in pure elemental form, it is found in many minerals, including halite, cryolite, soda niter, zeolite, amphibole, and sodalite. The most common sodium mineral is halite or sodium chloride salt.
  2. Sodium first was commercially produced by by thermal reduction of sodium carbonate with carbon at 1100°C, in the Deville process. Pure sodium may be obtained by electrolysis of molten sodium chloride. It may be produced by by the thermal decomposition of sodium azide.