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sodium carbonate

sodium 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. It is one of the most basic industrial chemicals. Sodium carbonate decahydrate, Na2CO3·10H2O, is a colorless, transparent crystalline compound commonly called sal soda or washing soda. Because seaweed ashes were an early source of sodium carbonate, it is often called soda ash or, simply, soda. The Solvay process provides most sodium carbonate for industrial use. It is found in large natural deposits and is mined in Wyoming; it is also recovered (with other chemicals) from lake brines in California. The principal uses of sodium carbonate are in the manufacture of glass and the production of chemicals. It is also used in processing wood pulp to make paper, in making soaps and detergents, in refining aluminum, in water softening, and in many other applications. The Leblanc process, the first successful commercial process for making soda, is no longer used in the United States but played a major role in the Industrial Revolution.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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