The sixth and most abundant element on earth, sodium is also abundant in the sun and stars. It is a soft, silvery-white metal that appears wax-like at room temperature and is brittle when cold. Sodium, extremely reactive, is always found in combination with other elements.
It can improve the structure of some allows, purify molten metals and descale certain metals. Sodium has excellent electrical conductivity and is an important heat transfer agent.
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Sodium in its metallic form can be used to refine some reactive metals, such as zirconium and potassium, from their compounds. This alkali metal as the Na+ ion is vital to animal life. Other uses:
In certain alloys to improve their structure.
In soap, in combination with fatty acids. Sodium soaps are harder (higher melting) soaps than potassium soaps
To descale metal (make its surface smooth).
To purify molten metals.
In sodium vapor lamps, an efficient means of producing light from electricity (see the picture), often used for street lighting in cities. Low-pressure sodium lamps give a distinctive yellow-orange light which consists primarily of the twin sodium D lines. High-pressure sodium lamps give a more natural peach-colored light, composed of wavelengths spread much more widely across the spectrum.
As a heat transfer fluid in some types of nuclear reactors and inside the hollow valves of high-performance internal combustion engines.
Sodium-ion batteries have significant potential because sodium metal is more readily available than lithium metal and less expensive.
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