The name sodium derives from the English word soda because it was discovered in 1807 by the English chemist Humphry Davy from electrolysis of caustic soda (NaOH). The symbol Na derives from the Latin word natrium. The most common compound in which it occurs is sodium chloride (table salt). At room temperature, sodium metal is soft enough that it can be cut with a butter knife! Yellow street lamps often owe their color to sodium. Sodium-vapor lamps were invented in 1920 and use sodium in an excited state to produce light. Sodium is an essential element for all animals and some plants. More specifically, in animals, sodium is needed for the generation of nerve impulses and for preservation of electrolyte balance and fluid balance. Via the sodium-potassium pump, three sodium ions are pumped out of the cell and two potassium ions ions are pumped in.
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