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Offline gatewood

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Producing sodium carbonate
« on: January 10, 2020, 12:31:34 AM »
Hello ppl :) amateur chemist here

Before I begin, I wanna ask if anyone here knows and is willing to teach me of a cheap, workable process to create sodium carbonate?

With that out of the way, I want to talk about how I recently become very interested in this useful chemical called sodium carbonate, since it has tons of practical uses (as glass and metallurgical flux, for the production of biodegradable soap, as a cleaning agent and to produce sodium bicarbonate, which is also extremely useful), and so I've decided to try and develop my own process to produce it... since the ones I'm most familiar with (Leblanc and Solvay), are too hard and costly for a DIY setup (except burning sea vegetation, but I don't live by the sea).

Reading about plant material (cellulose) combustion, I've learned that, the resulting CO2 creates a reductive environment, which enables the plant's nutrients to bind with the carbon and produce minerals such as calcite/aragonite (calcium carbonate) and potash (potassium carbonate), and also a bit of sodium carbonate (though the yield is pretty low).

For what I can gather from the Leblanc process:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leblanc_process

Is that sulphuric acid is used on table salt, to dissociate the chlorine and then bind the sulphur to create sodium sulphate, which is a lot less stable than sodium chloride, allowing for another, easier dissociation of the sodium and sulphate (using mere combustion and a catching material i.e. calcium carbonate, to take the sulphur away), to bind the former with carbon (producing sodium carbonate) and the later with sulphur (producing calcium sulphide).

So I was thinking that, the main problem I've got here to tackle, is how to dissociate sodium from chloride, without any, all too fancy chemicals or processes, if possible. Since I've already been producing some coke (very pure charcoal) in a kiln, I've decided that, maybe, I could just dip my sodium chloride into some water, to dissociate the ions, drop coke dust into my salty water, then, drop my soaked, salty coke into a kiln full of incandescent, non-treated coke to evaporate the water and, hopefully, the chlorine as well (pure chlorine boiling point is -34.04 °C), leaving only sodium behind (while pure sodium's boiling point is 883 °C) in the highly reductive environment of my kiln (and maybe some trace potassium from the coke to create the mixture known as "soda ash").

You guys think this setup could work? And also, what test can I perform to tell me, I've indeed got ashes with a high sodium carbonate yield?

P.D: other potential processes I've thought up are:

1. Simply burning my table salt in a bloomery (more than 1000 °C), to try and dissociate the chloride (like ceramicists do to create salty glazings i.e. sodium silicate i.e. liquid glass).

2. Feeding common plants a lot of salty water till they die and then, burning their remains.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2020, 01:10:39 AM by gatewood »

Offline AWK

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Re: Producing sodium carbonate
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2020, 02:54:39 AM »
You have great ideas for spectacular suicide.
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Offline gatewood

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Re: Producing sodium carbonate
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2020, 04:27:22 PM »
You have great ideas for spectacular suicide.

I suppose you're telling me I'll be gassing myself with chlorine gas? Wouldn't the Leblanc process do basically the same thing?
« Last Edit: January 10, 2020, 04:56:20 PM by gatewood »

Offline AWK

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Re: Producing sodium carbonate
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2020, 04:56:37 PM »
Carbon monoxide is much worse.
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Offline gatewood

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Re: Producing sodium carbonate
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2020, 10:45:25 PM »
Carbon monoxide is much worse.

Yeah well, I've been forging, melting and casting metal for quite some time using charcoal and coke and im pretty much alive (my kilns and forges are outside of course).

Anyhow, can we discuss the process I proposed? You think that, a reductive environment/atmosphere will help in the separation of the brine (salt water)? Preventing the chlorine from bonding again with sodium?

Offline AWK

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Re: Producing sodium carbonate
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2020, 12:33:46 AM »
Industrial processes are very difficult, even impossible, to be repeated in a primitive laboratory.
But if you have some NaOH, you can get Na2CO3 without any effort and quite safely.
Take a large and tall beaker, pour a small amount of NaOH solution into its bottom, cover the beaker with a piece of paper (dust protection) and wait patiently for a week or more (patience is one of the important features of a chemist). White efflorescence will appear on the side-wall of the beaker. When all the water evaporates, pour another small portion of clean water into the bottom of the beaker and wait for it to evaporate again. What is on the wall of the beaker is sodium carbonate. NaOH absorbed CO2 from the air. After two weeks you will obtain a few grams of sodium carbonate quite effortless.
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Offline gatewood

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Re: Producing sodium carbonate
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2020, 01:44:42 PM »
Industrial processes are very difficult, even impossible, to be repeated in a primitive laboratory.
But if you have some NaOH, you can get Na2CO3 without any effort and quite safely.
Take a large and tall beaker, pour a small amount of NaOH solution into its bottom, cover the beaker with a piece of paper (dust protection) and wait patiently for a week or more (patience is one of the important features of a chemist). White efflorescence will appear on the side-wall of the beaker. When all the water evaporates, pour another small portion of clean water into the bottom of the beaker and wait for it to evaporate again. What is on the wall of the beaker is sodium carbonate. NaOH absorbed CO2 from the air. After two weeks you will obtain a few grams of sodium carbonate quite effortless.

Yesss, I've already done that (look for my other post "making hydrochloric acid"), already made caustic soda and bubbled CO2 through the solution to make sodium carbonate, but the process is too complicated for me.

I understand industrial setups are beyond my budget and skill to put together, thats why the process I'm proposing requires way less steps and is a lot easier and can be done with a primitive setup (I even discarded the process of coking by replacing it with just very pure charcoal)... you think it'll work? (at the moment, im too sick to try it myself)

Offline Enthalpy

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Re: Producing sodium carbonate
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2020, 02:32:07 PM »
Start from bicarbonate?

Offline gatewood

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Re: Producing sodium carbonate
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2020, 01:10:12 AM »
Start from bicarbonate?

Im trying to start from scratch, no too direct precursors (maybe I should have mentioned that).

Anyhow, I think Im actually on the right track:

"The salting mixture of sodium chloride and water is introduced into the kiln when the appropriate temperature is reached, typically around 900 °C. As the kiln reaches higher temperatures, typically 1100–1200 °C, the sodium chloride vaporizes and reacts with steam to form hydrogen chloride and soda."

Salt glaze pottery, wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_glaze_pottery

I'm actually suggesting the exact same process, though with a little bit less heat (around 800°C), to vaporize the chlorine, but leave the soda behind and have it bind with the CO2 to get sodium carbonate :D

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