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Opposites Attract

Opposites Attract

Credit: NASA
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sodium_chloride_crystals_aboard_ISS.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Do you recognize these magnified crystals? They look a little like snowflakes. They’re actually crystals of a very common compound named sodium chloride.

The Back Story

  • Sodium chloride is plain old table salt. No doubt you think of it as a seasoning for food. But sodium chloride has hundreds of other uses. For example, it’s used in many manufacturing processes. It also has many uses around the house.
  • Credit: U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago/Released
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Winter_road_salt.jpg
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Salt is also used to prevent roads from becoming icy during winter [Figure2]


  • Sodium chloride is an ionic compound. It consists of positive sodium ions and negative chlorine ions (called chloride). 
  • Watch this video to learn more about how and why ionic bonds form in sodium chloride: http://www.nbclearn.com/chemistrynow/cuecard/56354

Show What You Know

Learn more about sodium chloride and other ionic compounds at the links below. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. Describe a sodium (Na) atom and a chlorine (Cl) atom.
  2. Why is the bonding of atoms a little like an atomic version of the card game Go Fish?
  3. What type of bonds do sodium and chlorine atoms form? Describe how they form bonds together.
  4. When atoms bond together in compounds, the compounds have different chemical properties than the lone atoms. Compare the properties of sodium and chlorine alone with the properties of the compound sodium chloride.
  5. In general, what are the properties of ionic compounds such as sodium chloride?
  6. How are ionic compounds named? For example, why is table salt named sodium chloride rather than chloride sodium of some other name?
  7. Why is sodium chloride useful for preserving foods?
  8. What role does sodium chloride play in the human body?
  9. Sodium chloride has many other uses. List three of them.

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: NASA; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sodium_chloride_crystals_aboard_ISS.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago/Released; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Winter_road_salt.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0


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