Sodium is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive metal. Sodium is an alkali metal, being in group 1 of the periodic table, because it has a single electron in its outer shell that it readily donates, creating a positively charged atom—the Na+ cation.
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Metallic sodium is used mainly for the production of sodium borohydride, sodium azide, indigo, and triphenylphosphine. Employed only in rather specialized applications, only about 100,000 tonnes of metallic sodium are produced annually. Sodium is now produced commercially through the electrolysis of molten sodium chloride.
Protons and Neutrons in Sodium
The total number of neutrons in the nucleus of an atom is called the neutron number of the atom and is given the symbol N. Neutron number plus atomic number equals atomic mass number: N+Z=A. The difference between the neutron number and the atomic number is known as the neutron excess: D = N – Z = A – 2Z.
For stable elements, there is usually a variety of stable isotopes. Isotopes are nuclides that have the same atomic number and are therefore the same element, but differ in the number of neutrons. Mass numbers of typical isotopes of Sodium are 23.
Main Isotopes of Sodium
Its only stable isotope is 23Na. Two radioactive, cosmogenic isotopes are the byproduct of cosmic ray spallation: 22Na has a half-life of 2.6 years and 24Na, a half-life of 15 hours; all other isotopes have a half-life of less than one minute.
Sodium-23 is composed of 11 protons, 12 neutrons, and 11 electrons. Acute neutron radiation exposure (e.g., from a nuclear criticality accident) converts some of the stable 23Na in human blood plasma to 24Na. By measuring the concentration of this isotope, the neutron radiation dosage to the victim can be computed.
Sodium-22 is composed of 11 protons, 11 neutrons, and 11 electrons. odium-22 is a radioactive isotope of sodium, undergoing positron emission to 22Ne with a half-life of 2.605 years. It is also commonly used as a positron source in positron annihilation spectroscopy.
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Sodium-24 is composed of 11 protons, 12 neutrons, and 11 electrons. Sodium-24 is one of the most important isotopes. It is radioactive and created from common sodium-23 by neutron bombardment. Therefore its activity accounts for most of the reactor coolants activity when reactor is at full power.