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Salt is an important nutrient and is used for many other purposes in the human food chain, including the preparation of foods and the deicing of roads and walkways in freezing weather. It is produced by solution mining, which involves drilling wells into halite veins underground, injecting water to dissolve the sodium chloride (NaCl), and allowing the resulting brine to reach saturation. The saturated NaCl is then pumped to the surface as green brine, where it is processed into evaporated and granulated salt and into chemical feedstocks for chlorine and caustic soda manufacture.

Sodium chloride has a high melting and boiling point, as is typical of ionic substances. The high melting and boiling points of ionic compounds result from the large electrostatic attractions between ions of opposite charge. If the ions are bigger, the electrostatic attractions are less, and the compound melts and boils at lower temperatures. For example, cesium chloride (CsCl) has an atomic structure that is very similar to that of NaCl, but has a much lower melting and boiling point because the cesium ions are 93% as big as the chloride ions.

It takes a lot of energy to change table salt into its constituent elements, first by heating it to its melting point and then adding electrical energy to electrolyze it (don’t try this at home). Molten NaCl conducts electricity because the movement of the ions in the melt is coupled with the discharge of the ions at the electrodes. In solid NaCl, however, that ion movement cannot occur, so the crystal is hard and brittle and does not conduct electricity.

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