What is Sodium Bicarbonate

Sodium Bicarbonate is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaHCO3. It is found in nature in the form of nahcolite minerals, and dissolved in many mineral springs across the world. Similarly, another name for it is baking soda or cooking soda, and sometimes as bicarbonate of soda. Mankind use Baking soda from as early as the ancient Egyptian civilization. They used to use a mineral called natron, which consisted of sodium bicarbonate, for cleansing purposes. It was, however, industrially produced starting from 1846, by two New York bakers, who established a factory to develop baking soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. Moreover, pure product is obtained from the reaction of sodium carbonate, water and carbon dioxide.

General Properties of Sodium Bicarbonate are:

  • It is odourless
  • Has a slightly salty, alkaline taste
  • It is neither flammable nor explosive
  • It is soluble in water
  • It is non volatile too

Manufacturing Process

Commercially prepared by Solvay process and involves the reaction of sodium chloride, ammonia, and carbon dioxide in water. Then to obtain a relatively low purity product, it uses calcium carbonate as the carbon dioxide source and uses the resultant calcium oxide to recover the ammonia from the ammonium chloride.
The first reaction of the process is as indicated below:

NaCl + CO2 + NH3 + H2O → NaHCO3 + NH4Cl (I)

The Carbon dioxide is passed through a concentrated aqueous solution of sodium chloride and ammonia. This reaction is carried out in two packed towers.

The Uses of Sodium Bicarbonate

Sodium bicarbonate has a wide range of applications, which include its use in food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and industrial applications. It can be as a pH regulator, for the release of CO2 and as a mild abrasive. The following are the applications of Sodium bicarbonate in various industries.

Food Applications

Sodium Bicarbonate, in cooking, is as a leavening agent as it reacts with acidic components in batters, then releasing carbon dioxide, which causes the expansion of the batter and forms the characteristic texture and grain in baked and fried foods. Also, in cuisines to tenderise meats. Then, In fried foods to enhance the crispness.

Cleaning Agent

Sodium bicarbonate can be as a cleansing agent to remove surface rust, and also to remove tarnish from silver. Aside those, in washing clothes it is replacement to softener.

Medical Applications

Sodium bicarbonate reduces stomach acid, also as an antacid to treat heartburn, indigestion, and upset stomach too. Overall, sodium bicarbonate is a very quick-acting antacid. However, it is only for temporary relief. Aside that, it is for treatment of hyperkalemia, and to treat aspirin overdoses since sodium bicarbonate can cause alkalosis, and the acidic environment helps in the absorption of aspirin. Other uses are for removing splinters from the skin. Additionally, it has also been used to treat an overdose of tricyclic antidepressant.

Other Applications

It is used as a bio pesticide as it can control the growth of fungus. Additionally, in the military/army to reduce the spread of white phosphorus from incendiary bullets inside an afflicted soldier’s wounds. Another use is to extinguish small grease or electrical fires by being thrown over the fire. Moreover, cattle feed supplement is also one of its uses as it acts as a buffering agent. Furthermore it is in toothpastes and mouthwashes for better whitening and plaque removal, and in wet and dry deodorants, in shampoos, etc.