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I was reacting pure sodium and tap water, and at one point I put some splattered sodium back into the water. I observed fumes that reacted with my respiratory system, producing a burning sensation.

I read that it is possible to produce sodium oxide fumes from sodium hydroxide at high temperatures (the sodium did burn at the end, producing an orange flame).

My question is what could be the chemical composition of these fumes?

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    $\begingroup$ This video shows what happened in 1947 when the U.S. Army dumped 20 thousand pounds of sodium (in 3500 pound containers) into frozen alkaline Lake Lenore, WA, USA: youtu.be/OBm8fM8sV0w .Not sure how alkaline the lake was prior to the sodium addition, but the clouds rising thousands of feet contain droplets of relatively concentrated NaOH solution. And, of course, very hot water vapor. $\endgroup$ – Ed V Sep 24 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ I was expecting a snarky comment by Ivan Neretin but that video practically tops any comment he could ever have given! $\endgroup$ – Jan Sep 25 at 10:12
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    $\begingroup$ Related: Vaporized sodium hydroxide? $\endgroup$ – Loong Sep 28 at 21:31
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I agree. This is a dangerous reaction and should not be tried without proper equipment, including a lab hood and fire extinguishing equipment.

The fumes could be "just" droplets of sodium hydroxide solution. I've seen similar fumes involving hydrochloric acid, just by adding water to rinse out traces of concentrated acid (in a hood, of course). They may be carried by increased evaporation even without boiling and without need for a further "chemical reaction".

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Well sodium hydroxide(NaOH) is solid at room temperature but at high temperatures it can be converted to gases.This happens due to the fact that the molecules of NaOH gain so much energy that the intermolecular bonds (dipole-dipole) between 2 sodium hydroxide molecules are broken.The reaction of sodium with water is exothermic and produces lot of heat and sodium hydroxide may have absorbed some of the heat.

What you did was very dangerous and I wouldnt recommend anyone to try it at home without laboratory equipment.

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    $\begingroup$ Sodium hydroxide is an ionic compound. $\endgroup$ – Ed V Sep 24 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ NaOH is still a molecule which contains ions Na+ and OH-. $\endgroup$ – Bright Future Sep 24 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ No, NaOH is not a molecule at normal temperatures and pressure. Maybe there are some NaOH molecules in high temperature flames and such. But that is not relevant to the OP’s question. $\endgroup$ – Ed V Sep 24 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ No. Look up “sodium hydroxide” in wikipedia. It is an ionic crystalline solid, just as it says there. Also shown is the crystal structure. $\endgroup$ – Ed V Sep 24 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ Please look at the wikipedia article. I will have no further interaction on this. $\endgroup$ – Ed V Sep 24 at 18:09

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