Sodium Acetate – The Cation and Anion of Acetic Acid

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The sodium salt of acetic acid, CH3COONa, is commonly known as acetate and is an important chemical compound. In the body it is used as an electrolyte replenisher when given intravenously to hyponatremic patients. It also helps to regulate extracellular fluid volume, control water distribution, and maintain the osmotic pressure of body fluids. Sodium acetate also works as an alkalizer and diuretic.

Sodium acetate is a hygroscopic white powder that is easily soluble in water. It is one of many acetate salts that exist. These are compounds formed when the negatively charged acetate anion of acetic acid is combined with a positively charged cation such as sodium or potassium. Other examples include lead acetate, chromium(II) acetate and aluminum acetate.

You can make sodium acetate at home by mixing vinegar (distilled white vinegar will work if high purity is not required) with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). The result is a solution of salt and acetic acid that can crystallize if the container is cold enough. It is the same chemical reaction behind the popular “baking soda volcano” science experiments.

Sodium acetate is used in a variety of industrial applications including food production and concrete manufacturing. It can be used as a buffer along with acetic acid to help keep a constant pH in solutions. It is a common reagent in molecular biology and biochemistry labs. Colorado State University notes that researchers use it to extract DNA from cells. In textile industries it is used to neutralize waste streams of sulphuric acid and as a photoresist when using aniline dyes. It is also an effective pickling agent and helps impede vulcanization during the manufacture of synthetic rubber such as chloroprene.