How to Make Sodium Metal [HD Video Tutorial]

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Introduction: How to Make Sodium Metal [HD Video Tutorial]

About: I like turning boring things into awesome things! Usually on video.



First some safety: The experiment described uses corrosive chemicals and mixtures capable of burning without presence of atmosphere. It should be done outdoors in cotton clothing as fire protection, with chemically resistant gloves, and of course lab goggles. In case of fire, wait for initial reaction to subside, then use a class D extinguisher - do not attempt to put out fires with sand or water.

A recent experiment of mine involved the production of the highly reactive element sodium from sodium hydroxide and another less reactive metal, in this case magnesium. The reaction is as follows:

2Mg + 2NaOH = 2MgO + 2Na + H2

The magnesium (finely powdered) first ignites burning in atmospheric oxygen contained in the reaction vessel. This initial reaction produces enough energy to initiate the primary reaction. The Mg has enough desire for the oxygen contained in the NaOH to actually rip it from the hydroxide group, freeing hydrogen gas and sodium. The reaction is violently exothermic. More than enough energy is released to ignite the hydrogen gas which burns as the reaction progresses. The sodium is produced in a liquid state due to the temperature of reaction, and some of it vaporizes giving the flame a strong orange/yellow color.

To keep the sodium from burning immediately upon production, a loose fitting lid is placed over the reaction vessel, allowing the burning hydrogen to escape, but sealing the vessel off from atmosphere once completed. The lid is then not removed until the reaction cools to air temperature, at which point mineral oil should be added to the resulting slag to prevent further oxidation of the product.

Presumably this experiment could be preformed with other metals acting upon the hydroxide group, such as aluminum - in fact, I've heard aluminum gives a better yield because of a lower reaction rate and temperature which vaporizes much of the Na using Mg. I have not yet tried it. It is also quite likely that this process could free most if not all metals from their hydroxides because the reaction does not involve the metal contained in the hydroxide, but the hydroxide group alone. All hydroxides should therefore be susceptible to separation via magnesium and possibly aluminum. I will conduct further experimentation in warmer weather.

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    23 Comments

    Can I use zinc or ferrous powder?

    Can a brick be used instead of the heavy lid mentioned? Thanks

    aaaaaamazing...

    this is amazing please check out my instructables please thanks!!!!!!

    Thanks! Please vote for it in the Epilog challenge!

    Still one of my favorite chemistry videos. I've been wanting to try this for a while now.

    1 reply

    I watch other people do these things so I don't have to ... :D

    Wool does work nicely, but cotton also offers good fire protection and at a fraction of the cost.

    true i am in sientific setion in high school and they told us that cotton is basily one of the ONLY thing that is good for all types of experiments.
    love the video by the way!

    Hey Ben,

    Sorry - not sure whether you mean me or the OP (NightHawkInLight) is "dumb" and "doesn't know crud". Either way, though? Rude. Not nice. Not helpful. And untrue.

    I goofed - my response was to both this post AND to his related post. (Seems he missed that, but that's another issue.)

    However: he's obviously pretty smart, and does know rather a lot of stuff about chemistry, and this topic. I've got some quibbles, but they're pretty much about safety, not intelligence or accuracy. And - sorry - I own 2 chemical/energy companies, have 2 patents in the area of catalysis and reactor design filed and more coming, in conjunction with several PhDs in chemistry and chemical engineering.

    So - whoever you're insulting -- me or the author -- bad move. Plus, it's against the site policy, and I've flagged your comment as such. Look - if you can't be nice, at least be CONSTRUCTIVE and rude... ;-)

    2 replies

    You remind me of my friend Nick. lol he's got your sense of humor. I just deleted it so no hard feelings right? (And it was directed at the author)

    BTW which companies?

    I have no other post that uses an electrolysis method. You must be confusing me with somebody else. What is shown in the video is all there is to this process, start to finish.

    Still think carefully removing the Lithium from Lithium batteries is quicker.
    you must loose quite a bit of Sodium along the way in this reaction and it doesn't appear to be that pure at the end but still not much effort and a fairly fiery reaction so looks good enough. may well give it a go next time I get hold of some Magnesium.

    Awesome!
    I guess the same wouldn't work using potassium hydroxide?
    Would a proper fuse be necessary or could I just use some newspaper?
    Also how dangerous do you think it would be to melt it under mineral oil to turn it into a proper ingot?
    Thanks!
    -Minifig666

    2 replies

    It actually would. This experiment should work with any metal hydroxide because the metal has nothing to do with how this reaction progresses.

    You will need a real fuse, or an electrical igniter. An electrical igniter could be as simple as a model rocket igniter from a hobby store, or a christmas light bulb igniter which I show how to make here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXXIfLTSP-c

    Melting sodium or potassium under mineral oil is as dangerous as it sounds. You would have a flammable liquid hotter than the boiling point of water that would be very dangerous should it spill, and a reactive metal made more reactive because of increased temperature. If you intend to try it I highly suggest that your melting pot is clamped in a vice while heating so that it cannot be spilled. Keep a lid nearby to extinguish the flame should it catch fire. Obviously water extinguishing oil or a reactive metal is not an option.

    Ok thanks, I feel a big purple flame coming along shortly!
    If I ever get a vacuum pump that works I could have a go melting it 'in vacuo' or perhaps under argon! For now I'll have to dig out my extinguisher and give it a go, it shouldn't take too long to bring potassium up to 63oC with a torch... :)
    I'll get back to you on how well the melting goes...
    -Minifig666