Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3) is also known as washing soda or soda ash light. It is an alkali chemical that is normally refined from the mineral trona or naturally occurring sodium carbonate-bearing brines or through manufacturing using several chemical processes. The result from the manufacturing process is known as synthetic soda ash and natural soda ash for the natural process. It appears as colourless crystals or as a greyish-white, granular or crystalline powder. Its anhydrous form is hygroscopic and the decahydrate form is efflorescent. It is odourless, tasteless, is highly soluble in water and decomposes on heating leading to a loss in CO2.
Some of the applications of sodium carbonate include:
- It is used as a food additive.
- It is used in the manufacture of detergents and in the saponification of fats.
- It is used in the neutralization, cleaning, bleaching and treatment of recycled paper.
- It is used in the production of bleaching agents, borax, chromates and dichromates, dyes, fillers, fertilizers, tanning agents, adhesives, metal carbonates, phosphates, soluble silicates and industrial cleaning agents.
- In the textile industry, it is used in dyeing, bleaching, and finishing of wool and cotton.
- It is used in gas purification in gasworks, hydrogenation, and coke ovens plants.
- It used as a raw material for melting glass and for reacting with sand.
- It is used in the digestion and beneficiation of ores such as lead, nickel, chrome and cobalt just to mention a few.
- In the ceramics industry, it is used in the production of refractory materials and glaze.
- In the iron and steel industry, it is used in the removal of sulfur and phosphorous from cast iron, pig iron, and steel: ore beneficiation, flotation agents and flushing agents.
- It is used in the pH control of water.
- It is applied in the dry process for the purification of flue gases by injecting sodium carbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate.
- It is used in the regeneration of acidic lakes by the introduction of briquettes of sodium carbonate.