This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
These are nearly the same as those of the potassium amalgams, but the sodium amalgams are employed almost exclusively, because sodium is easier to handle than potassium, and is cheaper. These employments are the following:
Sodium amalgam furnishes a process for the preparation of sodium when soda is decomposed by means of the electric current, employing quicksilver as the cathode, and afterwards vaporizing the quicksilver of the amalgam formed by heating this in a current of dry hydrogen.
Amalgams of sodium serve for the preparation of amalgams of the other metals, particularly alkaline earthy metals and metals of high fusing points, by decomposing the salts of these metals, with formation of a salt of soda and of the amalgam of the metal corresponding to the original salt.
They serve for amalgamating superficially the metals of high fusing point, called "refractory," such as iron and platinum, when a well-cleaned plate of these metals is immersed in sodium amalgam in presence of water.
An amalgam of 2 or 3 per cent of sodium is employed in the processes of extraction of gold by amalgamation. It has the property of rendering quicksilver more brilliant, and consequently more energetic, by acting as a deoxidant on the pellicle of oxide formed on its surface in presence of certain ores, which, by keeping it separated from the particles of gold, destroy its activity. Sodium amalgam of 3 per cent is utilized with success for the amalgamated plates employed in crushers and other apparatus for treating the ores of gold. If a few drops of this amalgam are spread on a plate of copper, of tin, or of zinc, a brilliant coating of an amalgam of tin, copper, or zinc is immediately formed.
Amalgams of from 2 to 8 per cent of sodium serve frequently in laboratories for reducing or hydrogenizing organic combinations, without running the risk of a partial destruction of these compounds by too intense action, as may occur by employing free sodium instead of its amalgam.