Chlorine: From toxic chemical to household cleaner
Few chemicals are as familiar as table salt. The white crystals are the most common food seasoning in the world and an essential part of the human diet.
Sodium chloride is chemically very stable – but split it into its constituent elements and you release the chemical equivalent of demons.
The process is brutal. Vast amounts of electricity are used to tear apart the sodium and chlorine atoms in salt molecules through the process of electrolysis. It happens at vast industrial sites known as chlor-alkali plants, the biggest of which can use as much electricity as a small country.
Which is why the price of both chlorine and sodium tend to track the price of electricity very closely.
It also explains why Industrial Chemicals Ltd’s chlor-alkali plant in Thurrock, Essex, is right next to an electricity substation.
David Compton, ICL’s chief chemist, shows…
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