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see sodium carbonatesodium carbonate,
chemical compound, Na2CO3, soluble in water and very slightly soluble in alcohol. Pure sodium carbonate is a white, odorless powder that absorbs moisture from the air, has an alkaline taste, and forms a strongly alkaline water solution.
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the technical name of the sodium salts of carbonic acid (H2C03). The different types of soda include calcined soda (Na23, anhydrous sodium carbonate, soda ash), baking soda (NaHC03, sodium bicarbonate), and soda crystals (Na2CO3-10H2O, Na2C03-7H20, Na2C03-H20). Caustic soda is the common technical and household name for sodium hydroxide (NaOH).

Soda has been known since antiquity. The Egyptians used soda occurring in nature (in lake water) as a detergent and also in the melting of glass. Until the 18th century, the word “alkali” referred to both sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate. In 1736 the French scientist H.-L. Duhamel-Dumonceau was the first to differentiate the two compounds; sodium carbonate was called soda (after the plant Salsola soda, from whose ash the salt was obtained), and potassium carbonate was called potash.

In nature, soda is encountered in the minerals trona (Na2C03-NaHC03-2H20), natron (Na2CO310H2O, also known as natrit), and thermonatrite (Na2C03-H20). Soda crystallizes in the monoclinic system, forms white granular or powdery masses, and quickly loses water in the air. The hardness on Mohs’ scale varies from 2.5 (trona) to 1.5; density varies from 2,110 kg/m3(trona) to 1,420 kg/m3 (natron). In the USSR, soda lakes are found in Transbaikalia and Western Siberia; Lake Natron in Tanzania and Searles Lake in California are well known soda lakes. Mineral deposits of soda (trona) of industrial significance are found in the Eocene stratum of the Green River formation in Wyoming. In addition to trona, many minerals that had previously been considered rare are found in this sedimentary stratum. Among them is dawsonite [NaAlC03(OH)2], which is considered a source of soda and alumina. In the United States, naturally occurring soda supplies 40 percent of the country’s demand. Soda is not extracted in the USSR owing to the absence of large deposits.

Until the early 19th century, the principal source of soda was the ash of certain marine algae and coastal plants.

Anhydrous Na2C03 is a colorless crystalline powder with a density of 2.53 g/cm3 at 20°C and a melting point of 853°C. It readily dissolves in water, to a concentration of 17.7 percent (by weight) at 20”C and 31.3 percent at 100°C. It forms the mono-clinic crystal hydrate Na2CO310H2O, which is stable up to 32.017°C, and the orthorhombic crystal hydrate Na2C03-7H20, which converts to orthorhombic Na2C03-H20 at 35.27°C. At 112.5°C and 1.27 atmospheres, Na2C03-H20 is converted to Na2C03. Aqueous solutions of Na2C03 are strongly alkaline as a result of hydrolysis.

The first industrial method for the production of soda was invented in the years 1787–89 by N. Leblanc, and production of soda by the Leblanc process was begun in France in 1791. With this process, rock salt (NaCl), under the action of concentrated H2S04, is converted into sodium sulfate:

2NaCl + H2S04 = Na2S04 + 2HC1

A mixture of sodium sulfate and ground limestone and coal is then roasted in a fired furnace to about 1000°C. The following reactions occur at this stage:

Na2S04 + 2C = Na2S + 2C0 2

Na2S + CaC03 = Na2C03 + CaS

Soda is extracted from the cooled melt with water. CaS is removed from the solution of soda, the solution is evaporated, and the crude soda is purified by recrystallization. The Leblanc process yields soda in the form of the decahydrate Na2CO3-10H2O, which contains approximately 62.5 percent water. Thus, calcining to red heat is required to dehydrate the soda obtained (hence the name “calcined soda”). The by-products of this process are HO (initially released into the air but later subjected to absorption by water to yield technical hydrochloric acid) and CaS (which forms great heaps).

These disadvantages were eliminated by E. Solvay’s ammonia-soda process, which Solvay patented in 1861. The first factory producing soda by the Solvay process began operation in 1863 in Belgium. The Solvay process is based on the following reactions, which proceed in aqueous solutions:

2NH3 + H20 + C02 = (NH4)2C0 3

(NH4)2C03 + H20 + C02 = 2NH4HC03

Ammonium bicarbonate (NH4HC03) reacts with a solution of


NaCl + NH4HC03 = NH4C1 + NaHC03

The precipitate NaHC03 is filtered off and by heating to approximately 140°-160°C is converted to Na2C03 (calcined soda):

2NaHC03 = Na2C03 + C02 + H20

The C02 liberated in the reaction is fed back into the production cycle. To regenerate NH3, the mother liquor, containing (NH4)2C03, NH4HC03, and NH4Cl, is heated to 80°C, with the result that ammonium carbonate and ammonium bicarbonate are decomposed:

(NH4)2C03 = 2NH3 + H20 + C02

NH4HC03 = NH3 + H20 + C02

The solution containing NH4C1 is heated with milk of lime to liberate ammonia:

2NH4CI + Ca(OH)2 = CaCl2 + 2H20 + 2NH3

The ammonia is fed back into the production cycle. All the reactions occur at low temperatures. The sole waste product is the solution of CaCl2, which, however, has some practical use. The Solvay process yields anhydrous soda of very high purity. In light of these advantages, the Solvay process replaced the Leblanc process in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Russia, the Ber-ezniki factory (1883) was the first plant to produce soda by the Solvay process.

NaHC03 is a white crystalline powder with a density of 2.16–2.22 g/cm3. Upon heating to approximately 50°C, the liberation of C02 begins, and at 100°-150°C, the substance undergoes complete decomposition, yielding Na2C03. Aqueous solutions of NaHC03 are slightly alkaline. This salt was first described in 1801 by the German pharmacist B. Rose. In industry, NaHC03 is obtained by passing C02 under pressure through a saturated solution of Na2C03 at 75°C:

Na2C03 + C02 + H20 = 2NaHC03

Soda is one of the most important products of the chemical industry. It is used in large quantities in the glass, soap, paper, and dye industries; it is also used for softening water for steam boilers. Na2C03 is the starting material in the production of NaOH, Na2B407, and Na2HP04. NaHC03 is used in the production of soft drinks, baked goods, and confectionery. In medicine, sodium bicarbonate, in tablet form, powders, and solutions, is used internally for neutralizing excess hydrochloric acid in gastric juice, for example, with gastritis. Externally, it is used for gargling and for washing the skin after contact with acids. With some diseases, solutions of NaHC03 are introduced intravenously. The salt is a component of many pharmaceutical agents.

In 1975, the USSR produced 4.7 million tons of calcined soda and 2.4 million tons of caustic soda.


Obshchaia khimicheskaia tekhnologiia, vol. 1. Edited by S. I. Vol’f-kovich. Moscow-Leningrad, 1953. Pages 512–54.
Ben’kovskii, S. V., S. M. Kruglyi, and S. K. Sekovanov.
Tekhnologiiasodoproduktov. Moscow, 1972.
Shokin, I. N., and S. A. Krasheninnikov. Tekhnologiia sody. Mos cow, 1975.


(inorganic chemistry)


1. any of a number of simple inorganic compounds of sodium, such as sodium carbonate (washing soda), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and sodium hydroxide (caustic soda)
2. the top card of the pack in faro