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Sodium azide

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Sodium azide
Sodium azide 01.JPGSodium azide.png
Systematic name Sodium trinitride
Other names Smite, Azium
Molecular formula NaN3
Molar mass 65.0099 g/mol
Appearance Colorless to white solid
CAS number 26628-22-8[1]
Density and phase 1.846 g/cm3 (20 °C) Solid
Solubility in water 40.8 g/100 mL (20 °C)
Melting point 275 °C Violent decomposition
Boiling point 300 °C
Acidity (pKa) 4.8[1]
Crystal structure Hexagonal
MSDS Material safety data sheet
Main hazards Highly toxic and explosive
NFPA 704

NFPA 704 svg.png

Flash point 300°C
R/S statement R: R28, R32, R50/53
S: (S1/2), S28, S45, S60, S61
RTECS number VY8050000[1]
Related compounds
Other anions Sodium cyanide
Other cations Potassium azide, Ammonium azide[1]
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Disclaimer and references

Sodium azide exists as a white crystalline powder. It can be found in many things but it's main use is in airbags. Sodium azide is a very dangerous compound and it should be handled with extreme caution. It is highly reactive and it can be explosive if heated or if it comes into contact with solid metals. If sodium azide is not handled properly it can cause death.[2]


Sodium azide is a white crystalline powder. It is unstable and can be very dangerous. When heated to 300 degrees Celsius it decomposes rapidly, which results in an explosion.[3] Sodium azide is a rapidly reacting compound that can be deadly. When mixed with water or an acid it can form a poisonous gas. This gas can be deadly if inhaled because sodium azide can prevent the body from using oxygen. Sodium azide also reacts with solid metals to form hydrazoic acid, which is also dangerous.[2]


There are a few ways to produce sodium azide. One way is to dissolve 40 grams of sodium hydroxide into 500 ml of ethyl alcohol. Then one filters the solution formed from this to remove any impurities. After that n-butyl nitrite is added to the solution, and then the solution is formed. This reaction yields sodium azide, butyl alcohol, and water.[4]

Another way to produce sodium azide is to dissolve five grams of hydrazine hydrate into 50 ml of ether. The solution is then cooled, and then sodium methoxide and ethyl nitrite are added. The solution is then brought slowly up to room temperature. Sodium azide crystals are then filtered out with a mixture of methanol and ether.[4]


Picture of an expanded airbag.

Sodium azide is used for many things, but one of the greatest uses for it is in airbags. When a car crashes, sensors in the car detect the collision and send electric signals to an igniter compound. The igniter compound then detonates heating up the sodium azide. When sodium azide is heated it quickly decomposes into sodium and nitrogen. The nitrogen formed from this reaction fills up the airbag. This only requires 130 grams of sodium azide to produce 67 liters of nitrogen gas, so it is very practical. The reaction is also very quick, only 0.03 seconds to completely fill the airbag with nitrogen gas. Sodium azide has saved many lives because of how it decomposes when heated.[5]

Sodium azide also has a few other uses. It is used as a preservative of chemicals in hospitals and in laboratories. Sodium azide can also be used in agriculture as a pesticide. Because sodium azide is so rapidly acting, it can be used as a detonator in explosives.[2]


Warning sodium azide is extremely toxic.

Sodium azide should be handled with extreme caution. It can be very dangerous and possibly cause death if not handled properly. When sodium azide is heated or if it comes into contact with a solid metal it explodes. This is one of the greatest dangers of sodium azide, but it is not the only one. When sodium azide reacts with water it forms a powerful acid. Sodium azide is also deadly if inhaled or ingested. Sodium azide should be handled very carefully. Also when disposing of sodium azide, one must be extremely careful. If it is rinsed down the sink it will explode if it comes into contact with copper piping.[6]

If someone is poisoned by sodium azide, they need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Exposure to sodium azide can lead to death in many cases. If someone is exposed they need to take off all their clothing and wash their body thoroughly. They also need to leave the area where the sodium azide was as soon as possible. Treatment to sodium azide exposure is just supportive and there is no antidote to sodium azide poisoning. One should be very careful around sodium azide to prevent sodium azide exposure.[7]


Video about how sodium azide reacts quickly and how it can be used in airbags.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Sodium azide Wikipedia. Web. Last modified on November 4, 2015. Unknown Author.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Facts About Sodium Azide CDC. Last updated on April 10, 2013. Unknown author
  3. Sodium Azide Cameo Chemicals. Web. Accessed on April 30, 2016. Unknown Author
  4. 4.0 4.1 Preparation of sodium azide Prep Chem. Web. Published July 4, 2015. Author Unknown
  5. Merola, Joseph. How do air bags work? scientificamerican. Published October 25, 1999.
  6. Inglis-Arkell, Esther. Sodium Azide Is The Nastiest Chemical That Ever Saved Lives io9. Web. Published on April 1, 2015.
  7. SODIUM AZIDE : Systemic Agent CDC. Web. Last updated on November 20, 2014. Unknown Author