WHAT HAPPENED IN THOMSENíS KILN? Ė A DETECTIVE STORY

BY MICHAEL JEWESS

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This work was published in Royal Society of Chemistry, Historical Group, Newsletter and Summary of Papers.

Abstract

The Danish chemist, Julius Thomsen (1826-1909), is best known for his work on the periodic table and on thermochemistry.However, he made his fortune by a process which manufactured washing soda from cryolite (Na3AlF6) mined in Greenland, a Danish possession.The paper applies modern thermodynamic knowledge to understand how his process works.It raises the intriguing possibility that one or more compounds believed to have been first discovered in the 1980s were in fact produced a century before, on an industrial scale, as an intermediate in Thomsenís process. .

 

Keywords:washing soda, sodium carbonate, Julius Thomsen, cryolite, Greenland, Leblanc process, Solvay process.

 

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