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gatewood

Producing Sodium Carbonate

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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.

Edited by Strange
fixed formatting to make text readable

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2 hours ago, gatewood said:

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?

Go to your local hardware store and buy some washing powder. :)

Otherwise, it depends what you want to start from. One easy method would be to start with sodium hydroxide and bubble carbon dioxide through the solution.

Another would be to heat sodium bicarbonate.

The problem with burning plant material is separating the sodium carbonate from all the other compounds present.

(I'm sure an actual chemist will be along soo with better answers!)

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If there was a cheaper way to do it, the commercial manufacturers would use that way.

As it stands, sodium carbonate is already very cheap.

 

You could, just to be different, separate chloride from sodium electrolytically- producing HCl and NaOH.

And then you could react the NaOH with CO2 to give Na2CO3
 

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5 hours ago, John Cuthber said:

If there was a cheaper way to do it, the commercial manufacturers would use that way.

As it stands, sodium carbonate is already very cheap.

 

You could, just to be different, separate chloride from sodium electrolytically- producing HCl and NaOH.

And then you could react the NaOH with CO2 to give Na2CO3
 

I. The process I'm proposing doesn't actually cost anything (other than getting the salt), though obviously, it couldn't be scaled to industrial proportions, which is fine by me. I wanna be able to make it from scratch (maybe I should have been a little more clear).

II. Yes, I've already done that by:

1. Produced CO2 by capturing wild yeast and feeding it starch and sugar, and storing the gas in a tire's inner tube.
2. Using coke as electrodes and do electrolysis to salty water to make sodium hydroxide.
3. Then bubbling my CO2 through the caustic soda to make the sodium carbonate (like the other commentator indicated).

Nevertheless, I'd rather not have to use electricity at all. The more I remove moving parts, the better.

Anyhow, what about the process I've proposed, complicated as it is, you think it could work?

Edited by gatewood

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2 hours ago, gatewood said:

Nevertheless, I'd rather not have to use electricity at all. The more I remove moving parts, the better.

Any process is going to require energy. And what moving parts are you talking about?

2 hours ago, gatewood said:

I. The process I'm proposing doesn't actually cost anything (other than getting the salt),

And the cost of electricity

2 hours ago, gatewood said:

I wanna be able to make it from scratch (maybe I should have been a little more clear).

What does “from scratch” mean? 

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9 hours ago, Strange said:

And what moving parts are you talking about?

To simplify, the less I have to do or put into the process, the better.

9 hours ago, Strange said:

What does “from scratch” mean? 

From basically nothing, the more it approaches producing sodium carbonate from materials I can get from trash or nature, the better. The process I proposed can be built and be carried out in the wild.

9 hours ago, Strange said:

Any process is going to require energy

I can get that energy from, wood, charcoal, methane, etc.

Edited by gatewood

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5 hours ago, gatewood said:

To simplify, the less I have to do or put into the process, the better.

Buy washing soda on-line.

5 hours ago, gatewood said:

I can get that energy from, wood, charcoal, methane, etc.

All of which cost money.

Even if the only money they cost is the money you don't get by selling them- the so called "lost opportunity cost".

14 hours ago, gatewood said:

II. Yes, I've already done that by: ...

 

14 hours ago, gatewood said:

you think it could work?

Well, which is it?

Have you done it  (in which case you know it works) or not?
 

Anyway, if you leave a solution of sodium hydroxide exposed to teh air, it reacts with CO2 and then dries out to give a crystalline carbonate (probably the monohydrate, though that depends on local conditions)

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8 hours ago, gatewood said:

From basically nothing, the more it approaches producing sodium carbonate from materials I can get from trash or nature, the better.

But, with the exception of burning plant matter, none of your processes match that description.

There is, I think, far more potassium than sodium in wood ash (and even more calcium). So you would end up with a mixture of calcium carbonate, potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate (and smaller amounts of other salts, including the chlorides of all those elements). Calcium carbonate is relatively insoluble, so if you wash the ashes, you will end up with a solution of mainly potassium carbonate. 

Whether that mixture is suitable for your purposes or not, I cant say. I have no idea how you would separate the potassium and sodium carbonate. I guess they have pretty similar properties. 

For your other ideas, you would need to buy salt (or whatever other source materials you use). So you might as well just buy sodium carbonate.

Is there any reason you want to do all this hard work to make something that can be purchased over the counter for a few pence?

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On 1/11/2020 at 8:39 AM, Strange said:

But, with the exception of burning plant matter, none of your processes match that description.

There is, I think, far more potassium than sodium in wood ash (and even more calcium). So you would end up with a mixture of calcium carbonate, potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate (and smaller amounts of other salts, including the chlorides of all those elements). Calcium carbonate is relatively insoluble, so if you wash the ashes, you will end up with a solution of mainly potassium carbonate. 

Whether that mixture is suitable for your purposes or not, I cant say. I have no idea how you would separate the potassium and sodium carbonate. I guess they have pretty similar properties. 

For your other ideas, you would need to buy salt (or whatever other source materials you use). So you might as well just buy sodium carbonate.

Is there any reason you want to do all this hard work to make something that can be purchased over the counter for a few pence?

Hmmm then let's just focus on the first process, do you think it might work? (The reason being I want to be able to produce it out of basically nothing, that is all).

Thanks for the adviceabout the plant material, but that's why I proposed feeding them salty water so they would absorb it and die off and then burn them down, so I would mimick what sea/salty plants do (like glasswort). Soda ash (potash + soidum carbonate) would still represent an acceptable product to me.

P.D: I actually got some salt from my last trip to the sea.

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13 hours ago, gatewood said:

Soda ash (potash + soidum carbonate) would still represent an acceptable product to me.

That's not what "soda ash" means.

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