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What is Sodium Chloride? - Definition, Structure & Formula

What is Sodium Chloride? - Definition, Structure & Formula
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  • 0:12 What is a Salt?
  • 0:45 Characteristics of…
  • 2:15 Commercial Uses of…
  • 2:45 Biological Uses of…
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John Williams
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.

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