Sodium is a chemical element with the symbol Na and atomic number 11. It is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive metal and is a member of the alkali metals; its only stable isotope is 23Na. It is an abundant element that exists in numerous minerals, most commonly as sodium chloride...
salt of sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...
. When anhydrous
As a general term, a substance is said to be anhydrous if it contains no water. The way of achieving the anhydrous form differs from one substance to another...
, it is a white crystalline solid of formula Na2SO4 known as the mineral thenardite
Thenardite is an anhydrous sodium sulfate mineral, Na2SO4 which occurs in arid evaporite environments. It also occurs in dry caves and old mine workings as an efflorescence and as a crusty deposit around fumaroles. It occurs in volcanic caves on Mt...
; the decahydrate
Hydrate is a term used in inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry to indicate that a substance contains water. The chemical state of the water varies widely between hydrates, some of which were so labeled before their chemical structure was understood....
Na2SO4·10H2O has been known as Glauber's salt or, historically, sal mirabilis since the 17th century. Another solid is the heptahydrate, which transforms to mirabilite when cooled. With an annual production of 6 million tonne
The tonne, known as the metric ton in the US , often put pleonastically as "metric tonne" to avoid confusion with ton, is a metric system unit of mass equal to 1000 kilograms. The tonne is not an International System of Units unit, but is accepted for use with the SI...
s, it is a major commodity
In economics, a commodity is the generic term for any marketable item produced to satisfy wants or needs. Economic commodities comprise goods and services....
chemical and one of the most damaging salts in structure conservation: when it grows in the pores of stones it can achieve high levels of pressure, causing structures to crack.
Sodium sulfate is mainly used for the manufacture of detergent
A detergent is a surfactant or a mixture of surfactants with "cleaning properties in dilute solutions." In common usage, "detergent" refers to alkylbenzenesulfonates, a family of compounds that are similar to soap but are less affected by hard water...
s and in the Kraft process
The kraft process describes a technology for conversion of wood into wood pulp consisting of almost pure cellulose fibers...
of paper pulping.