Making Sodium Metal

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This is one way sodium metal can be synthesized using NaOH and Mg. Mg, being a more reactive chemical than sodium at high temperature with oxygen, breaks down the NaOH, leaving ingots of elemental sodium within the ash.

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

Thanks to NurdRage for the equation.

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    23 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    While it is definitely possibly to use aluminum in the reduction of sodium hydroxide the problem is the ignition of aluminum. It does not ignite quite as rapidly as magnesium, this is why magnesium metal is often used as a sort of fuse for the thermite reaction.

    The thermodynamics for the reduction of sodium hydroxide by magnesium are completely sound. In my opinion, people should not be so quick to dismiss someone having first hand knowledge of a process on the basis of (potentially incomplete) theoretical knowledge. Theory is always evolving. It is true this reaction will not work in the aqueous phase of an electrochemical cell, as shown by the reduction potential of the reactants. However, it is very, very important to always consider that reduction potentials are calculated under standard conditions which is very limited in its scope. In fact, reduction potentials often deviate marginally and sometimes significantly from the potential of a true electrochemical cell (often due to effects at the electrodes). Hence, lead car batteries can be charged even though a table of reduction potentials tells us that oxygen should instead be evolved at a much lower potential. For the reaction of metal oxides in the **solid phase** (key in this reaction) we need to look at H. J. T. Ellingham's Diagram and his insightful theory on the thermodynamics of metals in equilibrium with their oxides (J. Soc. Chem. Ind. (London) 63, 125 (1944)). In such diagrams, we see that Mg at low temperatures shows a remarkable release of energy when combined with oxygen, however, the energy decreases rapidly at high (thermite) temperatures and thus for thermite reactions Al is usually the more powerful reductant. Another interesting feature of these diagrams is that the energy released by oxidizing alkali metals decreases from Li > Na > K. However, in contact with water, this series reverses since the reaction occurring is not the metal to the oxide but the metal to the ion. In the thermodynamics of the solid state, phase changes can dramatically effect the reaction path.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Can i just heat the hydroxide and get sodium???

    and can i replace aluminium powder without using magnesium

    Hi, the magnesium burns at a high temperature, (3100 deg C) so maybe it is decomposing the sodium hydroxide to sodium oxide. Sodium oxide reacts violently with water to from sodium hydroxide which could look very like the reaction of sodium with water

    1 reply

    I have heard that explanation before, but I have been able to collect sizable chunks of what is clearly sodium metal from this process. Soft, pliable metal that reacts instantly with water, not a grainy crumbly oxide.


    Very dangerous but so is flying- as long as you have safe ignition and gloves + goggles all's well when cooking.... Thought electrolysis was the only way, that in its self is dangerous using molten hydroxides.

    I Believe this method works in a similar way as the Hans Goldsmidt approach and used to refine many metals- By employing a reducing metal Such as Al /Mg-as long as there is an oxidised metal it will work even Plaster of Paris.......

    Having tried this it's very exothermic and slightly noxious but it works well --only a competent and brave and possibly certifiable soul carry out experiments like these.....guess that means me too...,..


    8 years ago on Introduction


    if you look at the Standard electrode potential, you can not reduce sodium hydroide with magnesium, look at here -->
    Are there any other methodes to make sodium? I ahve not magnesium powder at home ;)


    5 replies

    This is not a typical redox reaction. If it were, the reaction would be:

    Mg + 2NaOH = Mg(OH)2 + 2Na

    That reaction cannot occur naturally from left to right. The actual reaction taking place is:

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

    NaOH has an a enthalpy change of formation of −734.95 kJ / mo
    MgO has an enthalpy change of formation of only -601.24 kJ / mo

    Hence, the reaction can not work under standard conditions, it would violate the second law of thermodynamics if it did.

    The reaction
    4Mg + 4NaOH + 1O(2) -> 4MgO + 4Na + 2(H20) might work

    But I suspect the actual reaction is something like
    2Mg +3 NaOH + O2 -> Na3H(Mg2O4) + H20

    Have you been able to confirm that sodium metal actually exists in the end reaction, and not something that reacts like sodium exists? (Density, Melting Point?)

    (Note: The enthalpy change of formation depends on things like pressure and temperature and hence you might get the reaction under certain conditions. For example, if the NaOH were in a gas state under pressure the reaction would become more favorable but I don't think you could change the formation enthalpy enough for the reaction to work)

    I really have no idea how this works in terms of thermodynamics. I could probably think up some idea for how the energy might move around if I spent enough time on it, but it would be total guess work. I have a very basic understanding of the chemistry but that's it.

    You can view another go at the reaction here which yields solid ingots:

    You can also view an HD remake of this video here, though a much lower quality product is obtained due to my rush to finish the video:

    I have seen a very high quality product extracted from the slag via heating under high temp brake fluid. No absolutely definitive lab testing has been done that I know of to prove this is actually sodium, but it behaves in every way I have seen to be the real deal. Not only that, but I have been told by much more knowledgeable chemists than myself that this reaction should work for even more reactive metals bound to a hydroxide, such as potassium.

    Again, I understand how this reaction bypasses the reactivity series by not involving the metal itself in the reaction, but how it operates regarding enthalpies is above my head.


    But I have ask my teacher. He said that the electrons etc. are right, but Magnesium is noble as Sodium. He said that is a ReDox reaction, but is must not work.


    Whether your teacher believes it or not, I can assure you it does work. I prove it in the following video:

    Your teacher can try it for himself.

    I buy Mg through a personal contact. It has strict shipping requirements which makes it hard to acquire online. I use stoichiometric ratios, everything is measured by mass. Aluminum should also work in this reaction, but of course would require new measurements.

    Every thing is measured by mass didn't spring out of the video, but I guessed you were doing it by eye (knowing what that weight looked-like?
    W'ref Al - alumina is very different stuff you might get a better result overall?


    When I preformed the experiment in this video I was still unsure of the reaction involved. It was the first and last time I measured by volume. I gave it a good guess. In my second video I measure much more accurately.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I am not a 'kid'. I am an experienced and respected firework builder, welder, and inventor. I have already discussed all the bs about propane on YouTube where this was originally posted and don't care enough to explain the misconceptions again to you.