Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Sodium, I've done it!

Triflic Acid - 22-8-2021 at 20:39

Earlier today, I tested out a method of producing sodium. Sodium chloride was mixed with a catalytic amount of anhydrous aluminum trichloride and electrolyzed in propylene carbonate. The AlCl3 complexed with the NaCl to make it more soluble in PC. To prevent moisture from getting into the system, a layer of mineral oil was placed above the PC. With a platinum anode and stainless steel cathode, this produced a thin layer of a grayish black metal. Added to water, this bubbled and was destroyed within seconds. I think that this is sodium. The production was hampered by the small amount of anhydrous AlCl3 available. Next step would be to create more, purer AlCl3 and repeat on a larger scale. But, it worked :D

JJay - 22-8-2021 at 21:10

Aluminum chloride would have a similar reaction with water. Was the pH of the water affected?

Lion850 - 23-8-2021 at 01:04

I once activated aluminium powder with iodine and this powder reacted vigorously with water with lots of bubbling, even after being in a bottle for months.

macckone - 23-8-2021 at 09:22

I would agree more experimentation is necessary.

Tsjerk - 23-8-2021 at 13:04

Without any qualitative or quantitative measurements this says nothing. Do you have a reference stating this is possible or did you pull the method out of thin air?

[Edited on 23-8-2021 by Tsjerk]

BromicAcid - 23-8-2021 at 14:20

In theory I see this working fine, I mean the classical example is fusing aluminum chloride with sodium chloride and electrolyzing in nitrobenzene with the AlCl4- acting as the anion that allows the electrolysis to proceed in non-aqeuous media. Unfortunately, at least from what I have seen from the primary reference the amount of sodium prepared is minimal. Would be interested in seeing what you can do with some refinement.

Triflic Acid - 23-8-2021 at 16:15


Also, I know it is sodium, since the gas formed upon the reaction with water neither fumed, nor did it have any smell. Also, the propylene carbonate solution that was known to contain the anhydrous AlCl3 was also added to water, and it fumed with the creation of a pungent gas. So, I am pretty sure that this was sodium.

Metallophile - 23-8-2021 at 17:29

Could the produced sodium have aluminum mixed with it?

macckone - 24-8-2021 at 12:04

Not doubting the product, I was able to find several references to similar procedures.
Now wondering if this will work for lithium using the procedure outlined.
The covering the reaction with oil is a nice touch.

Would like to see yields and such in the real world, not just academic papers.
This could be a game changer for electrolysis in the home lab.

Triflic Acid - 25-8-2021 at 19:33

I don't think the sodium produced has any aluminum in it, since there was no aluminum flakes in the bottom of the beaker after I put the sodium in.

horuse10 - 25-8-2021 at 23:58

You will probably never see aluminium at the bottom of your beaker since :

Na + H2O ---> NaOH + 1/2 H2

2 Al + 2 NaOH + 6 H2O ---> 2 Al(OH)4 - + 2 Na+ + 3 H2

If your sodium is contamined with aluminium it is probably in extremly divided form (If not in an alloy kind form)

In this case the above reaction will be extremly fast.

Yon can test aluminium presence with aluminon

Triflic Acid - 26-8-2021 at 17:08

Any cheaper tests? I don't have aluminon

violet sin - 26-8-2021 at 21:49

Carbonation of Sodium Aluminate/Sodium Carbonate Solutions for Precipitation of Alumina Hydrates—Avoiding Dawsonite Formation
Danai Marinos 1,* , Dimitrios Kotsanis 1, Alexandra Alexandri 1 , Efthymios Balomenos 1,2 and Dimitrios Panias 1
Attachment: crystals-11-00836 (2).pdf (3.2MB)
This file has been downloaded 160 times

This seems to use CO2 and sodium carbonate to precipitate aluminum hydroxide. There would be NaOH, if there was Na and H2O, a given. Gass it out and you have carbonate. If there was no aluminum content, would it be obvious before a point at which sodium carbonate would start precipitating? I don't know that. Perhaps this is useful, perhaps no. It's been a long day.

Antiswat - 19-9-2021 at 02:16

try to react the stuff with methanol, and then ignite the vapors
sodium methoxide should arise, and it should burn with a bright yellow flame
assuming lithium and sodium reacts similarily

macckone - 22-9-2021 at 11:24

A flame test wouldn't tell if there was aluminum present.
Sodium would far outshine the aluminum.

The test violet sin describes is probably the easiest.
dissolve in water, gas with CO2.
If a precipitate forms add water and see if it dissolves.
Na2CO3 and NaHCO3 are both soluble.
Alx(CO3)y produces aluminum hydroxide and is insoluble.

Triflic Acid - 29-9-2021 at 21:00

Will be trying again this weekend on a larger scale and will run that test. Honestly, I just want this to give an explosion in water

Metallophile - 30-9-2021 at 08:45

For aluminum detection, maybe you could gas a sample with dry chlorine? And then heat the results and watch for vaporized AlCl3? Or would the sodium just burst into flames immediately from the Cl? You'd have to go really slowly, but still manage to get all of the metals reacted. I'm having second thoughts about this idea now... Regardless, I am looking forward to your results!

fredsci93 - 30-9-2021 at 16:55

Better to go with the carbon dioxide, chlorine gas only reacts with aluminium or sodium with a large enough amount of heat and it also generates huge amounts of heat so one would need to perform it in a quartz tube or similar since the reaction would very likely smash borosilicate and anything not sealed would lose the aluminium chloride (metal would also possibly work but it may react). In fact aluminium has an odd property in water, it is only soluble in acidic or basic conditions, so you wouldn’t even need to use carbon dioxide you could just slowly adjust the pH from basic to acidic with hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide solution and look for precipitation (best to start with a very concentrated sample to best detect the precipitation) at pH=7.

[Edited on 1-10-2021 by fredsci93]