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Why is sodium metal stored in kerosene? Can it be stored in alcohol too?

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suzannah304 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted October 22, 2013 at 2:54 PM via web

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Why is sodium metal stored in kerosene? Can it be stored in alcohol too?

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valentin68 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted October 22, 2013 at 3:46 PM (Answer #1)

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Sodium is stored under kerosene because of its high chemical reactivity with almost all of other elements (for example oxygen from air which oxidizes it instantly). Kerosene and mineral oil are the only chemicals that make the sodium inert. Usually when Na reacts with a solvent it liberates hydrogen gas from its composition. The heat of the reaction is so big that hydrogen gas ignites.

The reaction with water (and also moisture from the air) is so violent that even CO2 extinguishers can not be used to fight the flames that results. The equation of this reaction is

`2*Na +2*H2O = 2*NaOH + H2`

As said above, sodium reacts with almost any inorganic or organic solvent. With alcohols the reaction give an alkoxide. For example with methanol the sodium methoxide is obtained.

`Na +CH3(OH) = CH3(ONa) + H2`

Therefore the answer to the second part of the question is: no you can not store sodium under alcohol because it will react with it.

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