Non-electrolytic preparation of sodium metal

A very quick reaction accompanied by a flash that leads to the formation of sodium metal

Scientific name: Displacement of metallic sodium from its hydroxide by magnesium

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Safety

Wear eye protection goggles. Work away from flammable objects and outdoors.

Always follow general safety recommendations. Please note that conducting chemistry experiments you must comply with the relevant legal procedures in your country.

Reaction formula

2 Mg + 2 NaOH → 2 MgO + 2 Na + H2

2 Na + 2 H2O → 2 NaOH + H2

Step-by-step instruction

  1. Grind 8 g of sodium hydroxide using a pestle and mortar.
  2. Weigh 5 g of magnesium powder.
  3. Mix the two substances in a steel pot.
  4. Insert a wick. One end of the wick should be in the mixture of substances, the other end must stick out from the pot.
  5. Cover the pot with a concrete block. Ignite the wick.
  6. Observe a bright flash. After that, wait for 10 minutes.
  7. Fill the pot with a mineral oil.
  8. Pour 200 ml of water in a 500ml-beaker. Then, pour 50 ml of mineral oil into it.
  9. Carefully transfer the resulting mixture from the pot into the beaker.
  10. Observe the bubbling. Collect the supernatant sodium metal and compress it into one big piece.
  11. Lower the piece of metallic sodium in water. Observe the releasing of hydrogen and flashes.

Scientific background

This reaction proceeds due to the fact that magnesium can cleave the oxygen from sodium hydroxide. Under these conditions, sodium can't form a bond with hydrogen. Therefore, sodium and hydrogen are released from the reaction mixture in the form of simple substances. Magnesium becomes magnesium oxide.

Thus, magnesium oxide and sodium metal remain on the bottom of the pot. Hydrogen is released as a gas and is burned.

Sodium is a very light and soft metal. For this reason, it emerges above the oil and may be compressed into a large piece, while magnesium oxide sinks into the aqueous layer and dissolves therein.

Danger:
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Published on 30 June 2015

  • Fire
  • Heating with fire
  • Explosion
  • Poisoned gas
  • Organic
  • Electricity
  • Solution
  • Oxidation reduction
  • Color change
  • Precipitate
  • Gassing
  • Catalyst