Sodium chlorate is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaClO3. It appears as an odorless pale yellow to white crystalline solid. It is appreciably soluble in water. Although it is not itself flammable, the solid product and even 30% solutions in water are powerful oxidizing agents. Contact with wood, organic matter, ammonium salts, sulfur, various metals and other chemicals may result in fire or explosions.
Several hundred million tons of sodium chlorate are produced annually. Industrially, sodium chlorate is produced by the electrolysis of a hot sodium chorine solution:
This reaction progresses in heat and controlled pH. In lower temperatures or higher pH, another reaction progresses in which sodium hypochlorite, a chemical for bleaching, is produced instead.
Sodium chlorate can also be synthesized by passing chlorine gas through a solution of sodium hydroxide. It is then purified by crystallization.
The main commercial use for sodium chlorate is for making chlorine dioxide (ClO2). The largest application of chlorine dioxide accounts for about 95% of the use of chlorate, is in the bleaching of pulp. This bleaching process manufactures higher quality and environmentally friendly white paper products. With increasing environmental concerns, sodium chlorate, as a key ingredient for making chlorine dioxide, is in even greater demand by the industry.
Sodium chlorate also has other applications apart from being producing bleaching agents. It can be used for herbicides which are used on non-cropland for spot treatment and for total vegetation control on areas.
Due to its chemical and physical properties, sodium chlorate can be used for oxygen generation, such as those in commercial aircraft, provide emergency oxygen to passengers to protect them from drops in cabin pressures.
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