Sodium acetate crystals forming

Sodium acetate crystals forming

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This image is part of the sequence Science and technology: Sodium acetate crystals forming

Credit: CHARLES D. WINTERS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Sodium acetate crystals forming. Sodium acetate is used in consumer heating pads or hand warmers and is also used in hot ice. Sodium acetate trihydrate crystals melt at 58 C, dissolving in their water of crystallization. When they are heated to around 100 C, and subsequently allowed to cool, the aqueous solution becomes supersaturated. This solution is capable of cooling to room temperature without forming crystals. Providing a nucleation centre causes the solution to crystallize into solid sodium acetate trihydrate. The bond-forming process of crystallization is exothermic, hence heat is emitted.

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