Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Sodium Metal

AArregga - 5-6-2010 at 13:18


I was scrolling through ebay when i noticed an offer too good to pass up.

1 pound of sodium for $102. So, i went ahead and bought it. Do you think that buying 1 pound of sodium is enough to cause suspicion? should i call the order off?

I am not buying it to blow it up, or to create a bomb or anything. I am buying it because $102 for a pound of sodium seems to be an excellent deal, and it has some resale value, as well as it can be useful in a lab.

Right now, i'm starting up a lab, and a lifetime supply of sodium seemed invaluable. I'm beginning to regret the decision as i realize just what people could think of someone with a pound of sodium.

What are your opinions? Should i cancel the order?
Chances of Law enforcement intervention?


AArregga - 5-6-2010 at 14:01

I decided to cancel it. It just seems too risky to order a pound of sodium metal.

I also read a story of a man who was arrested for ordering a little more than a pound.
Police described that amount as the same amount of energy as 2 car bombs.

I'll post a link.. but i can't seem to find that story anymore.


Magpie - 5-6-2010 at 19:30

Quote: Originally posted by AArregga  
I decided to cancel it. It just seems too risky to order a pound of sodium metal.

I also read a story of a man who was arrested for ordering a little more than a pound.
Police described that amount as the same amount of energy as 2 car bombs.

Why would someone be arrested for buying a lb of sodium? We routinely buy the equivalent stored energy when we fill up our gas tank.

I'm not questioning your decision. Everyone must decide these things by himself.

AArregga - 5-6-2010 at 23:44

Because people are much more afraid of something they don't encounter on a mostly daily basis, such as sodium vs. gas.

Sodium is always shown in the youtube videos to explode when it comes into contact with water, and the media doesn't help by claiming 1 lb has the energy of 2 car bombs. The legitimate uses of sodium are never shown because they do not interest the general public, so therefore only the dangerous exciting uses are shown.

These uses tend to worry people. Especially when the word "bomb" is involved.
1 lb of gas might explode with more force under pressure than 1 lb of sodium (Don't quote me on that), but because people encounter gas on a daily basis, they tend to trust it more, in a sense.

As for why someone might be arrested for buying a pound of sodium? Because people like to assume and prejudge.
and because law enforcement tends to want their immediate justification that what they're doing is right.

If they (LE) can say they caught a man buying 1 lb of sodium, and they "knew" he was going to make a bomb out of it, but they successfully stopped him before he could do anything dangerous, it can be used by them to justify what they have done, and all the reasons they have for these ridiculous laws. They want to justify what they're doing is right, even if they have to unfairly persecute people along the way. Unfortunately, people tend not to look at the whole and complete story, and remain ignorant to other possibilities, such as the fact that he wants sodium for legitimate uses.

Because people have only seen the more explosive side of sodium, they assume that's the only thing a person would want to do with it, therefor they assume that he automatically is going to make a bomb. This works to LE's advantage.

These are just my thoughts and opinions, anyway.


[Edited on 6-6-2010 by AArregga]

bquirky - 6-6-2010 at 04:00

you wernt planing on shipping it through the standard post where you ?

if not you not breaking any law

AArregga - 6-6-2010 at 09:54

Quote: Originally posted by bquirky  
you wernt planing on shipping it through the standard post where you ?

if not you not breaking any law

It was going through fedex, however the seller said they had packaged it completely correctly and labeled it hazardous and were in compliance with any hazardous shipping laws.

It's not breaking the law, but i'm sure if LEA saw it they wouldn't be... pleased?


MagicJigPipe - 6-6-2010 at 20:59

All I can say is... I wish I had $102 to spend on Na right now.

It's a law. The best deals only come along immediately after you run out of money.

kclo4 - 6-6-2010 at 21:11

"it's not breaking the law, but I'm sure if LEA saw it they wouldn't be... pleased?"

If it doesn't break the law, who cares? let them talk to you about it even --personally I'd try to stir up shit and make them look bad, assuming you are in the right. The news would love too show how difficult it is to experiment at home without some tyrannical government breathing down your neck.

azo - 7-6-2010 at 01:36

cant get any better the price than that.

1kg in australia would cost $980.00 and a eud .


bquirky - 7-6-2010 at 04:41

It makes me wonder if its worth producing salable quantitys

gutter_ca - 7-6-2010 at 10:27

I once had a few lumps of Na that I was just playing with.

One day, I went outside with a glass of water and a small chunk, dropped it in to show someone. As I dropped it, two police cars pulled up in front of me. Immediately after the reaction, the officers approached and asked me about some other thing that they were called about in the neighborhood.

As they walked away, one turned back and, as an afterthought, asked what the explosion was. I explained that it was Sodium and water, which, I said, was sort of like vinegar and baking soda, but a bit stronger!:D

densest - 7-6-2010 at 11:12

@kcl04 - In many regions, the word "chemical" is considered equivalent to "poison", "explosive", or "evil". The news media frequently either believe that or exploit that for headlines. "chemical" and "residential" together is a big red flag too.

Unfortunately, a whole lot of society wants utterly risk-free life (which doesn't exist) and will blame anyone else when they discover otherwise. A smaller segment will sell almost anything to make money and will cover up any bad effects. A smaller segment has absolutely no knowledge of or desire to understand statistics and risks. They generate enormous amounts of hysteria. A segment will tout (either cynically or ignorantly) cures which have bad effects - often, the "cure" does nothing. The media makes money out of disasters and hysteria.

Knowledge and facts are always the loser in any contest. A scientist might say "I'm 99.9995% sure of X" and the public will get "Scientists don't know". So any chemical is bad, bad, bad without appeal. Paranoia rules the public, the law enforcers, and the lawmakers.

It will take a generation of good public relations to repair public trust.

What I'd like is mandatory public school classes in risk and statistics. Unfortunately, the first thing the anti-everything public thinks of is "gambling" so education about it is unconditionally bad. They think that sex education induces promiscuity, too. That kind of enforced ignorance is bringing down civilization now.

MagicJigPipe - 7-6-2010 at 14:33


If it doesn't break the law, who cares? let them talk to you about it even --personally I'd try to stir up shit and make them look bad, assuming you are in the right.

Even though I do agree with you and think that would, under different circumstances, be a great idea; as many have said, just about any person residing in the U.S. is in violation of some sort of law, code or regulation. If the police don't like you they CAN get you (with exceptions of course).

It almost makes me wonder if it is purposeful in order for the authorities to be able to arrest/harass whomever they choose.

zed - 7-6-2010 at 17:19

Buying a pound of Sodium isn't illegal. Just make sure you aren't planning to do anything illegal with it. Having an interesting project in mind, is helpful.

If the guys do come to talk to you, be prepared to do some explainin'.

Oh, and don't imagine LE will necessarily arrive with the metal, or make the delivery themselves(an ominous turn of events). Often, LE shows up for a sit-down, months...or even years, after the actual purchase.

So, hey....Buy Sodium if you feel like it. Just make sure you "keep your nose clean".
Somebody may come around to check.

AArregga - 10-6-2010 at 19:12

So, the shipper gave me an option when i sent the message to cancel. I can pay about $60 in cancelling, mostly due to ebay & paypal fees, or they can just keep shipping it. So i decided after reading your responses to just let them ship it. It came, and they really did package it well, box inside a box with a paint can type thing followed by more brown wrapping paper.

The sodium turned out to be high quality, good sodium. I put it in some mineral oil i had, but apparently this mineral oil has higher concentrations of oxygen in it than i would like. After about 3 hours i can see a white layer starting to form. I ordered some new mineral oil, supposedly low oxygen and perfect for storing alkali metals, and it should arrive in 2-3 days.

I've read a few other threads regarding sodium and mineral oil, and it seems like other people have said to melt the now slightly oxidized sodium metal in mineral oil, and then pour it into the new mineral oil, letting it cool into blob like shapes. If i did melt it, would the oxide simply float away, leaving nice pure unoxidized sodium underneath?

Another dilemma is how to transfer it to the new mineral oil without spilling some of the old mineral oil in and contaminating it (The very thought of that makes me shudder), unless the density of sodium vs mineral oil would make it so the sodium would pour out before any mineral oil would. If not, i suppose i'd need to make something like a seperatory funnel that could be heated on a hot plate.


Magpie - 10-6-2010 at 20:26

I'm going to tell you how I store my sodium. I make no claim that it is the best way. My sodium is just a reagent and I'm not fussy about its appearance.

I received a 50g cube shrink wrapped from an eBay seller. I keep it submerged in barbeque lighter fluid in a tightly closed, screwed cap, wide-mouthed glass jar. It has a thin layer of oxide on it. When I need some clean sodium I cut it off the main chunk right in the jar with a kitchen knife, remove it with forceps, tamp it dry with a paper towel, then cut off the oxide layer as waste. I then have a nice clean piece to make some sodium ethoxide, or whatever.

[Edited on 11-6-2010 by Magpie]

len1 - 10-6-2010 at 20:35

Quote: Originally posted by bquirky  
you wernt planing on shipping it through the standard post where you ?

if not you not breaking any law

If you are in Western Australia you can be sure to get a constable over to whom youll have to explain all this. The method of transportation will not however be what he comes to talk to you about.

AArregga - 10-6-2010 at 21:19

Your method seems great magpie, but i don't trust sodium in highly flammable liquids. If you called me paranoid you'd be right :). I think the people around me wouldn't enjoy seeing sodium plopped in flammable liquid either, no matter how much i tried to explain to them that it wasn't going to explode.

Either way though, would melting the sodium separate the oxide from the pure?
I'm not fussy about appearance so much as i am about the sodium being ONLY sodium, and not oxide so much.
Storing 2 chemicals in the same container, even if they're unreactive with each other, and even if one is just the oxide of the other just doesn't
sit that well with me =\. I suppose you could say i'm obsessed with purity.


D4RR3N - 11-6-2010 at 02:40

I think the shipping companies have a watch list of chemicals and the info of those who purchased them is passed on to the appropriate authority, when you order such things I think its better to put down a company name. Individuals ording such things may trigger alarm bells. This system probably runs alongside the taxing system.

mr.crow - 12-6-2010 at 10:51

I'm glad you decided to order it, now you have some nice sodium!

If you are shipping within the same country no one will know or care what is inside the package.