In the 19th century, Na metal was isolated by heating up Na2CO3 + carbon to 1200 C and distilling and capturing the Na vapor under oil.

I tried it a few years ago with a small steel tube welded at the end as a retort and indeed vapors appeared burning with bright yellow (or purple in the case of K2CO3) flame, but could not capture it.

Did anyone isolate these alkali metals with this method ?

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    $\begingroup$ Danger, Mister Robinson! Your statement of burning vapours of sodium indicates that the distillation was not air tight. While much more sodium is obtained via an electrolysis of a melt, you may distill it (like magnesium) at high temperatures and high vacuum. The two-page preview (link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1012738010844) stops where the details start, but «forevacuum and oildiffusion pumps» (p. 556 right bottom) already tells it is considerably less than 0.1 mbar (to start an oildiffdusion pump) to somewhere down to 10E-8 mbar, not accessed earlier than in 1915 (Gaede). $\endgroup$ – Buttonwood Oct 28 '19 at 22:10

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