Caustic soda pearls (also known as sodium hydroxide, caustic soda, NaOH, sodium hydrate, or Sodagrain) are white spheres of caustic soda with a barely perceptible odour. They are soluble in water, with the liberation of heat, and are stable under normal conditions.
Caustic soda is a strong base and, as such, has many applications in industries all over the world, both now and in the past. It is one of the oldest manmade chemicals with excavations in Egypt showing samples of it dating from 3000 B.C.
Caustic soda is produced all around the globe with world production standing at approximately 59 million tonnes per annum (in 2008). Virtually all producers use the chloralkali process which involves the electrolysis of sodium chloride using one of three cell types: mercury, diaphragm, or membrane. If this process is used, 1.1 tonnes of caustic soda can be produced to each tonne of chlorine.
Storage and Distribution
Caustic soda pearls are stored and transported in 25 kg woven bags with a PE liner. For transportation purposes they are classed as packing group II, hazard class 8 and they are corrosive and can cause burns. They have a specific gravity of 2.13.
Caustic soda pearls are an important inorganic chemical as they are used in numerous industries worldwide. The highest demand for caustic soda comes from the paper industry where it is utilised in pulping and bleaching processes. They are also in demand in the aluminium industry as the caustic soda dissolves bauxite ore, which is the raw material in aluminium production. Another major use for caustic soda is chemical processing as caustic soda is a basic feedstock for a range of down-stream products including solvents, plastics, fabrics, adhesives etc.
Caustic soda pearls are also used in soap production as they engender saponification of the vegetable oils or fats that are necessary for soap manufacture. They also have in role in the natural gas industry where sodium hydroxide is used to help produce and process petroleum products. Caustic soda can also be employed in the textile industry where it is used in the chemical processing of cotton.
Caustic soda also has small scale applications. It can also be used for aluminium etching, chemical analysis, and in paint stripper. It is also a component in a range of domestic products including pipe and drain cleaner, oven cleaner, and in home-cleaning products.