MARTYN F. CHILLMAID / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MARTYN F. CHILLMAID / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Block of the metal sodium, one of the chemical elements, in an opened petri dish. Sodium is a soft, highly-reactive alkali metal. At room temperature it oxidises in air and reacts violently with water, so it has to be covered with a film of oil. Sodium is never found in its natural state but as part of a compound. Sodium is the seventh-commonest element found in the Earth's crust, and also occurs widely in sea salt. Sodium compounds are used in a variety of industrial processes and are essential for living organisms. Sodium has the chemical symbol Na, an atomic number of 11 and an atomic weight of 23.
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