About the Element
Sodium is a chemical element which has the symbol Na (Latin: natrium), atomic number 11, atomic mass 22.9898 g/mol, oxidation number +1. Sodium is a soft, silvery white, highly reactive element and is a member of the alkali metals within "group 1" (formerly known as 'group IA'). It has only one stable isotope, 23Na. Sodium was first isolated by Sir Humphry Davy in 1807 by passing an electric current through molten sodium hydroxide. Sodium quickly oxidizes in air so it must be stored in an inert environment such as kerosene. Sodium is present in great quantities in the earth's oceans as sodium chloride. It is also a component of many minerals, and it is an essential element for animal life. As such, it is classified as a "dietary inorganic macro-mineral."

Sodium (the English word for which is soda) has long been recognized in compounds, but was not isolated until 1807 by Sir Humphry Davy through the electrolysis of caustic soda. In medieval Europe a compound of sodium with the Latin name of sodanum was used as a headache remedy.

Sodium's chemical abbreviation Na was first published by Jšns Jakob Berzelius in his system of atomic symbols (Thomas Thomson's Annals of Philosophy[2]) and is a contraction of the element's new Latin name natrium which refers to natron, a natural mineral salt whose primary ingredient is hydrated sodium carbonate and which historically had several important industrial and household uses later eclipsed by soda ash, baking soda and other sodium compounds.

Sodium in its metallic form can be used to refine some reactive metals, such as zirconium and potassium, from their compounds. This alkali metal as the Na+ ion is vital to animal life.

Other uses: In certain alloys to improve their structure. In soap, in combination with fatty acids. Sodium soaps are harder (higher melting) soaps than potassium soaps. To descale metal (make its surface smooth). To purify molten metals. In sodium vapor lamps, an efficient means of producing light from electricity (see the picture), often used for street lighting in cities. Low-pressure sodium lamps give a distinctive yellow-orange light which consists primarily of the twin sodium D lines. High-pressure sodium lamps give a more natural peach-colored light, composed of wavelengths spread much more widely across the spectrum.

About the Print
The image is of night street scene with sodium vapor lights. The print is a two color monotype.

About the Printmaker


by Connie Pierson

see also: Mercury

Symbol: Na
Atomic number: 11
Atomic weight: 22.989