Sodium bicarbonate is a very useful chemical compound having a crystalline salt-like appearance. This compound has revolutionized many production processes, and has also resulted in the effective development of several different consumer products and other household substances. In this Buzzle article, we take a look at the different uses of sodium bicarbonate.
Sodium bicarbonate is basically a chemical compound, which is commonly known as baking soda, bread soda, cooking soda and bicarbonate of soda. Students of science and chemistry have also nicknamed sodium bicarbonate as sodium bicarb, bicarb soda. Sometimes it is also simply known as bi-carb. The Latin name for sodium bicarbonate is Saleratus, which means, ‘aerated salt’. Sodium bicarbonate is a component of the mineral Natron, also known as Nahcolite which is usually found in mineral springs, the only natural source of sodium bicarbonate.
Sodium bicarbonate is used in many different fields ranging from chemical industries to household applications. This compound is also used extensively to manufacture medicines. Among the many benefits of sodium bicarbonate is its ability to eliminate most of the bacteria and fungi and act as a disinfectant making it a very important ingredient of several medicines and cleaning agents.
Sodium Bicarbonate Properties
The following are some chemical properties of Sodium Bicarbonate
|Molar Mass||84.0066 g/mol|
|Melting Point||270°C (decomp)|
|Solubility in Water||7.8 g/100 mL (18°C) and 10 g/100 mL (20°C)|
|Solubility||Insoluble in Alcohol|
If you want to know the physical properties and appearance of sodium bicarbonate, just hold a pinch of baking powder on your palm and observe it. You will notice that the soluble white anhydrous substance has a crystalline appearance and a translucent white shade. You can also get some sodium bicarbonate which has a different texture of grains from a chemistry laboratory. Though the toxicity of raw sodium bicarbonate brought straight out of the lab is very low, one should never consume it.
Sodium Bicarbonate Production
Sodium bicarbonate is basically produced with the help of a process known as the Solvay process. Solvay process is a reaction between calcium carbonate, sodium chloride, carbon dioxide and ammonia and takes place in water. There are basically two reactions involved in the Solvay process, that produce the sodium bicarbonate having the formula; NaHCO3. This process is described below.
In the first step, the reaction between carbon dioxide and an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide results in the formation of sodium carbonate.
CO2 + 2 NaOH → Na2CO3 + H2O
In the second step, the additional carbon dioxide, sodium bicarbonate and water, give rise to the final product, that is, sodium bicarbonate.
Na2CO3 + CO2 + H2O → 2 NaHCO3
Sodium bicarbonate rarely occurs in the form of minerals that can be easily mined and processed. The Piceance Basin, Colorado, is one such rare natural source of this compound, which quenches the North American continent’s demand for sodium bicarbonate. The sodium bicarbonate in this region is extracted from the formation of nahcolite beds and then processed.
Sodium bicarbonate is one of the well-known antacid that is used by a large number of pharmaceutical companies to make medicines that treat mild indigestion problems. The most common medicine is an aqueous solution of sodium bicarbonate that is used to treat digestive disorders such as acid indigestion and heartburn.
Medicines that are used to treat mild forms of metabolic acidosis like chronic renal failure and renal tubular acidosis also contains a significant amount of sodium bicarbonate.
Sometimes sodium bicarbonate is also used as an ingredient of medicines that are used in urinary alkalinization, to treat Aspirin overdose and uric acid renal stones.
An aqueous solution of sodium bicarbonate is also used to treat acidosis. This solution is administered with the help of intravenous therapy. It is administered when a drop in the level of sodium or bicarbonate ions occurs in the blood.
One of the most well-known use is in the treatment for Hyperkalemia.
Sometimes manufacturers of toiletries use sodium bicarbonate as an ingredient for preparing mouthwashes as it is an excellent cleanser of teeth and gums. It also tends to reduce the production of acids in the mouth thus preventing oral infections.
Non-fluoride toothpaste also contains a significant amount of sodium bicarbonate. As a result of its anti-fungal properties, it is also used in shampoos and deodorants.
There are numerous effective sodium bicarbonate tablets manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. Do note, however, one must never consume such medications before consulting a doctor.
Textile and Leather Industry
One of the most prominent uses of sodium bicarbonate is the treatment of woolen and silk fabrics. The textile industry, extensively uses sodium bicarbonate for dyeing and printing operations. The leather industry also uses sodium bicarbonate as a neutralizer of dyeing agents in the tanning processes.
One of the prominent uses of sodium bicarbonate as a catalyst and purifier in the manufacturing process of complex plastics and polymers.
Rubber and Plastic
As sodium bicarbonate releases carbon dioxide it is used as a blowing agent in the manufacturing process of rubber and plastics. The released carbon dioxide is controlled to effectively shape the objects made from rubber and plastic.
Sodium bicarbonate can be easily used for the biological control of waste water. This compound basically controls biological oxygen demand, maintains alkalinity in waste water, and also controls sulfide odors. It is also a very effective collector of sulfur dioxide, and is therefore used in flue gas desulphurization( a method of treating industrial gases that are released into the atmosphere).
Sodium bicarbonate is used to bake delicious breads and cakes. The baking powders, contain a large quantity of sodium bicarbonate which is always accompanied by a small quantity of acid phosphate. During the baking process, some of the ingredients like phosphates, cream of tartar, lemon juice, buttermilk, cocoa, yogurt and vinegar react with sodium bicarbonate in the baking powder giving rise to a substantial amount of carbon dioxide which makes the cake or bread rise and become porous on the inside and fluffy and soft on the outside. Sodium bicarbonate can also be used to soften peas, during boiling.
Many household cleaning agents actually constitute sodium bicarbonate as a very important ingredient. Most of the cleansing compounds that are used for the removal of tarnish, tend to contain a small amount of sodium bicarbonate.
Other Bi-carb Uses
One of the prominent use of sodium bicarbonate is in the manufacture of dry chemical based fire extinguishers. These fire extinguishers can be easily and effectively used to put out grease-based and electricity-based fires.
In many cases, the anti-fungal properties of sodium bicarbonate have made it a very effective outdoor cleaning agent and also for adjusting the pH levels (level of acidity or basicity). Thus many of the disinfectants and antiseptic compounds that are used in spas and swimming pools contain sodium bicarbonate in them.
Librarians and book sellers are also known to use sodium bicarbonate to remedy the musty smell that prevails in the pages of books that have been stored for a long time.
Thus it can be concluded that sodium bicarbonate is a very useful compound and has a large variety of uses ranging from domestic to industrial. The antiseptic properties of this compound help us in maintaining hygiene and also helps get rid nasty fungus and bacteria.