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Odorless, white, cubic crystals


Characteristic salty taste

Melting point = 800.8 C

Boiling point = 1465 C

Density = 2.165 g/cm

Solubility at 25 C = 35.9 g/100 g water

Vapour pressure at 865 C = 1 mm Hg

Solid does not conduct electricity

Liquid conducts electricity

Aqueous solution conducts electricity


Does not undergo combustion

Electrolysis of molten NaCl forms chlorine gas and metallic sodium


Concentrated sulfuric acid converts it to hydrogen chloride


Aqueous solution reacts with aqueous silver nitrate to form silver chloride

Sodium chloride is a compound formed from the ionic bonding of sodium and
chloride. The result is a salt that is very important biologically and commercially.
This article discusses sodium chloride, its properties, and its uses.

What Is a Salt?
We see it on the tables of restaurants, in shakers at home, and taste it when we swim in the
ocean. But what really is a salt?

Salts are inorganic compounds, which means they do not contain carbon and hydrogen
together in one molecule. Salts form when a positively-charged atom, called a cation, attracts
a negatively charged atom, known as an anion.
This positive to negative attraction is known as an ionic bond and is key in maintaining the
chemical structure of salts. One of the most important salts in nature and biological systems is
sodium chloride. Let's look at sodium chloride and discuss what makes it such a valuable salt
in nature.

Characteristics of a Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride is formed when sodium atoms interact with chlorine atoms. When this
occurs, sodium will donate an electron (which is a negatively-charged particle) to chlorine.
This makes sodium slightly positive and chlorine slightly negative.
Opposite charges attract, right? So then, sodium ions will attract chloride ions and form an
ionic bond. By the way, chloride is the term used to designate the anion form of chlorine. The
result is a crystallized salt that has properties that are different from the two parent elements
(sodium and chlorine). The chemical formula for sodium chloride is NaCl, which means that
for every sodium atom present, there is exactly one chloride atom.

Sodium chloride has a molar mass of 58.44 grams per mole. It appears as a solid, clear crystal
with little or no odor. As a salt, sodium chloride dissolves well in water and the ions in the
crystals will separate when in solution. Have you ever added salt to a pot of boiling water,
maybe to make pasta? You can see how instantly the little crystals dissolve, or break apart in
the water.
Sodium chloride molecules can also stack on top of each other in a structure known as a
lattice and the solid crystals of sodium chloride will contain this lattice-type arrangement.

Sodium chloride has many commercial and biological uses. Let's discuss a few of these.

Commercial Uses of Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride can be used in many commercial products as well as in public works
projects. For example, whenever the temperature drops close to freezing, sodium chloride is
often used to prevent ice buildup on the roads and bridges in order to preserve safe driving
conditions. Sodium chloride is also used in the production of several commercially-important
metals, such as copper, steel, and aluminum. Other uses of sodium chloride include glass
production, rubber production, and hardening of soil during construction.

Salt (NaCl), sodium chloride, mineral substance of great importance. The mineral form
halite, or rock salt, is sometimes called common salt to distinguish it from a class of chemical
compounds called salts.

Properties of common salt

are shown in the table. Salt is essential to the health of both people and animals. Table salt,

used universally as a seasoning, is fine-grained and of high purity. To ensure that this
hygroscopic (i.e., water-attracting) substance will remain free-flowing when exposed to the
atmosphere, small quantities of sodium aluminosilicate, tricalcium phosphate, or magnesium
silicate are added. Iodized saltthat is, salt to which small quantities of potassium iodide
have been addedis widely used in areas where iodine is lacking from the diet, a deficiency
that can cause swelling of the thyroid gland, commonly called goitre. Livestock also require
salt; it is often made available in solid blocks.

The meat-packing, sausage-making, fish-curing, and food-processing industries use salt as a

preservative or seasoning or both. It is employed for curing and preserving hides and as a
brine for refrigeration.
In the chemical industry, salt is required in the manufacture of sodium bicarbonate (baking
soda), sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), hydrochloric acid, chlorine, and many other
chemicals. Salt is also employed in soap, glaze, and porcelain enamel manufacture and enters
into metallurgical processes as a flux (a substance promoting fusing of metals).
When applied to snow or ice, salt lowers the melting point of the mixture. Thus, large
amounts are used in northern climates to help rid thoroughfares of accumulated snow and ice.
Salt is used in water-softening equipment that removes calcium and magnesium compounds
from water.

History of use
In some parts of the Western Hemisphere and in India, the use of salt was introduced by
Europeans, but in parts of central Africa it is still a luxury available only to the rich. Where
people live mainly on milk and raw or roasted meat (so that its natural salts are not lost),
sodium chloride supplements are unnecessary; nomads with their flocks of sheep or herds of
cattle, for example, never eat salt with their food. On the other hand, people who live mostly
on cereal, vegetable, or boiled meat diets require supplements of salt.
The habitual use of salt is intimately connected with the advance from nomadic to
agricultural life, a step in civilization that profoundly influenced the rituals and cults of
almost all ancient nations. The gods were worshipped as the givers of the kindly fruits of the
earth, and salt was usually included in sacrificial offerings consisting wholly or partly of
cereal elements. Such offerings were prevalent among the Greeks and Romans and among a
number of the Semitic peoples.
Covenants were ordinarily made over a sacrificial meal, in which salt was a necessary
element. The preservative qualities of salt made it a peculiarly fitting symbol of an enduring
compact, sealing it with an obligation to fidelity. The word salt thus acquired connotations of
high esteem and honour in ancient and modern languages. Examples include the Arab avowal
There is salt between us, the Hebrew expression to eat the salt of the palace, and the
modern Persian phrase namak arm, untrue to salt (i.e., disloyal or ungrateful). In English
the term salt of the earth describes a person held in high esteem.
Salt contributes greatly to our knowledge of the ancient highways of commerce. One of the
oldest roads in Italy is the Via Salaria (Salt Route) over which Roman salt from Ostia was
carried into other parts of Italy. Herodotus tells of a caravan route that united the salt oases of
the Libyan Desert. The ancient trade between the Aegean and the Black Sea coast of southern
Russia was largely dependent on the salt pans (ponds for evaporating seawater to obtain salt)
at the mouth of the Dnieper River and on the salt fish brought from this district.
Cakes of salt have been used as money in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa and in Tibet. In
the Roman army an allowance of salt was made to officers and men; in imperial times, this
salarium (from which the English word salary is derived) was converted into an allowance of
money for salt.