Sodium Nitrate Structure

An Introduction to Sodium Nitrate Structure

Sodium nitrate refers to an alkali metal nitrate salt having a chemical formula NaNO3. This chemical compound is also called as Chile saltpetre because vast deposits of the same were previously extracted in Chile, and also to differentiate it from normal saltpetre – potassium nitrate. Moreover, the mineral form of sodium nitrate is also termed as nitrate, nitratine or soda nitre.

Sodium nitrate contains a sodium cation and a nitrate anion Na+ and NO3- respectively. It exists in the form of a highly soluble crystalline solid at room temperature and does not support combustion.

By now, you must have got an idea about what sodium nitrate is, so let us move on with the structure.

Structure of Sodium Nitrate

This compound presents a bond between a single Na+ and NO3- ion. Take a look at the following image to understand the sodium nitrate structure.

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In the NaNO3 Lewis structure, the nitrate anion holds a trigonal planar construction where three atoms of oxygen bonds with a central atom of nitrogen. The –ve charge on nitrate anion gets removed because of resonance. Hence, the atom of nitrogen holds a charge equivalent to +1, and all the oxygen atoms have -2/3 charge each. So, -1 is the total validated charge on NO3-.

Besides the structure of NaNO3, you must also know other aspects of this compound. Let us begin!

Preparation of Sodium Nitrate

Sodium nitrate preparation can be done by neutralising nitric acid with sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate or sodium hydroxide. Here are the chemical equations of the mentioned neutralisation reactions:

NaHCO3 + HNO3 -> NaNO3 + H2O + CO2

Na2CO3 + 2HNO3 -> 2NaNO3 + CO2 + H2O

NaOH + HNO3 -> NaNO3 + H2O

An important point to consider for the reaction between nitric acid and sodium hydroxide is that it is highly exothermic. The reason for this is that the former is a strong acid, while the latter is a strong base. So, another method to prepare sodium nitrate is by reacting between sodium hydroxide and ammonium nitrate. The chemical equation for this reaction is as follows:

NH4NO3 + NaOH → NH4OH + NaNO3

Moreover, the reaction between ammonium nitrate and sodium bicarbonate or sodium carbonate is also done to yield sodium nitrate. The reactions are:

Na2CO3 + 2NH4NO3 → (NH4)2CO3 + 2NaNO3

NaHCO3 + NH4NO3 → NH4HCO3 + NaNO3

Let us proceed with the properties of NaNO3

NaNO3 Properties

Properties of sodium nitrate can be categorised into chemical and physical ones.

Chemical Properties

  • Sodium nitrate has a molar mass of 84.99 grams/mole.

  • Its density is 2.257 gram / c³.

  • NaNO3 melting point is 308 degree Celsius.

  • When this compound is dissolved in H2O (water), it separates into NO3- and Na+.

  • The boiling point of NaNO3 is 380 degree Celsius.

  • Sodium nitrate is a potent oxidising agent, and violently reacts with reducing agents.

  • NaNO3 on heating decomposes explosively.

Physical Properties

  • It is a white coloured crystalline solid.

  • NaNO3 holds two structures of crystals, namely trigonal and rhombohedral.

  • It has a sweet smell.

  • The solubility of sodium nitrate in water is 91.2 g / 100mL at 25 degree temperature.

  • Sodium nitrate is hugely soluble in NH3 (ammonia).

Applications of NaNO3


It will be interesting for you to know that uses of sodium nitrate are huge in the food industry. NaNO3 acts as a colour fixative and food preservative for meats and poultry. It does not have any quality similar to antioxidant but is functional when reduced to nitrite. Following are some essential functions of sodium nitrite:

  • Meat stabilisation

  • Improvement of meat texture

  • Development of flavour in cured meat

  • Removing warmed-over flavour

  • Antimicrobial

Now you may wonder what foods have sodium nitrite, and what are the foods that contain sodium nitrate?

The answer to your questions is that both sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are found in bacon, ham, corned beef, salami, hot dogs, smoked salmon, dried fish, pate, pickled pig’s feet, jerky, etc.

Agricultural Use

There is a visible influence of sodium nitrate on plant growth. It is being used as N nutrition source from the middle of the nineteenth century and holds a history of being a productive fertiliser material.

Note: Sodium nitrate is preferably used for growing tobacco that is fertilised using a particular form of nitrate fertiliser.

The initial limiting substance for growth of plants in maximum soils is nitrogen. Consequently, owing to this factor, readily available fertilisers which have nitrogenous content increase the growth of crops materially. After a layman applies sodium nitrate to the soil, he notices the crop growth and in the past many looked upon sodium nitrate as a stimulant. However, it is a wrong concept and must be annihilated.

So, How Sodium Nitrate Should be Applied?

As the compound is fast and thoroughly water-soluble in nature, the soil colloids do not absorb the nitrate ion. Nitrogenous fertilisers should be added early for the crops to utilise. This theory also applies to all other nitrate fertilisers. Severe nitrate loss takes place in drainage water when it is added to sands which have open subsoils. Nitrates get leached quickly.

Vast amounts of nitrates can be put to clays instead of sands, but it must be added according to the utilisation of crops within a considerable time period. Also, when large quantities of NaNO3 are to be applied, it must be done two or more times. By doing this, nitrogen loss by leaching can be reduced and simultaneously, injury to plant roots because of excess soluble salts can be avoided.

Other Uses

Gold refiners make use of sodium nitrate to form hybrid aqua regia which helps in dissolving metals like gold.

This chemical compound is used to enable respiration in facultative microorganisms in wastewater industry. A microorganism genus Nitrosomonas intake nitrate instead of oxygen and multiplies to treat wastewater.

Sometimes, marine aquarists use NaNO3 who utilise techniques of carbon-dosing. This compound helps to increase levels of nitrate in water and enhance the growth of bacteria.

Calcium nitrate and potassium nitrate is mixed with sodium nitrate for the purpose of storing heat and, for transfer of heat in solar power units.

Sodium nitrate also acts as an ingredient in fast cold packs, fireworks oxidiser and replaces potassium nitrate, which is commonly present in black powder.

All these points will answer your thought about what is sodium nitrate used for.

Health Concerns Related to Sodium Nitrate

Some observations suggest that a link has been found between increase in nitrate level and rise in deaths from specific diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, stomach cancer, diabetes mellitus and Parkinson’s disease. This is because nitrosamines have a damaging effect on DNA. Nitrosamines which are formed in cured meats contain sodium nitrate, and it can cause critical diseases like esophageal cancer and gastric cancer. Furthermore, sodium nitrate is also related to colorectal cancer.

One reason for processed meat to increase colon cancer risk is the presence of nitrate in it. When a small quantity of nitrate as a preservative is given to meat, it decomposes to nitrite. Then it reacts with foods rich in protein (like meat) to generate NOCs (nitroso compounds) which are carcinogenic. The nitroso compounds can form during curing of meat or when meat digestion takes place in stomach.

Moreover, sodium nitrates can increase the risk of heart diseases. It can harm the blood vessels, which makes the arteries narrow and hard, resulting in heart disorders.

Although sodium nitrates have a lot of applications, it has several health hazards as well. So, you must consider the content of sodium nitrate in food like processed meat, before having it regularly.

Do It Yourself

Nitrites undergo a reaction with proteins and forms:

a) nitroso compounds b) nitrates c) sulphuric acid d) hydrochloric acid

Which liquid dissolves metals like gold?

a) water b) aqua regia c) acetic acid d) ethanol

If sodium hydroxide is mixed with nitric acid, the reaction is hugely exothermic. So, which alternative compound is reacted with sodium hydroxide instead of nitric acid?

a) ammonium nitrate b) potassium nitrate c) HCL d) nitrogen

By going through the above discussion, you must have understood what is NaNO3 structure, side effects, properties, uses, etc. For more related concepts of Chemistry, you can download the Vedantu app to get access to study materials and online classes.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the Chemical Formula for Sodium Nitrate?

Ans. The chemical formula for sodium nitrate is NaNO3.

2. How to Remove Nitrates From Human Body?

Ans. People who want to remove nitrates from their body must follow a diet containing high antioxidant foods. Vitamin C and several other types of vitamins can lessen the changing of nitrates to nitrosamines and nitrites.

3. What is the Effect of a High Nitrate Level?

Ans. If levels of nitrates go high, algae and plants will proliferate.

4. What Leads to Toxicity of Sodium Nitrates?

Ans. In our saliva, intestines and stomach, bacteria convert nitrates into nitrites and it is majorly nitrites that lead to toxicity. They oxidise iron component present in red blood cells and making them incapable of carrying oxygen. Also, human beings can suffer from nitrite poisoning in multiple ways.