Sodium silicate, also known as waterglass, is a versatile inorganic chemical made by combining sand and soda ash (sodium carbonate) at high temperature. Adjusting the ratio of sand to soda ash yields a variety of products with unique functionality used in many industrial and consumer product applications.
A mixture of caustic soda, quartz sand, and water are prepared in a mixing tank, then fed into a reactor, where steam is introduced. The reaction is
n SiO2 + 2 NaOH → Na2O•nSiO2 + H2O
Hundreds of commercial uses of sodium silicates have evolved as a result of their versatile functionality and low cost. Silicates are a key raw material for many chemical processes but are also critical components in the manufacture of many everyday products such as detergents, paper stock, textiles, paint, fuel, etc. The chemical activity of soluble silicates is employed in soil solidification and in catalyst production, as well as in the manufacturing of silicate derivatives.