3. In ancients time, soap made from ashes of plants which contain sodium
carbonate and potassium carbonate. The ashes were boiled with lime
(calcium oxide) to produce caustic potash (potassium hydroxide). Caustic
potash is then boiled with the animal fats to produce soap.
4. In 1861, the Belgian Chemist Ernest Solvay (1838-1922) discovered the
process to make soda (sodium carbonate) from common salt (sodium
chloride) and calcium carbonate.
5. This process is known as the Solvay Process which produces sodium
carbonate cheaply for industrial use. Sodium carbonate (often called soda or
soda ash) is used for making glass, soaps and detergents.
6. Michel Chevreul (1786-1889), a French chemist, was noted for his research in
the composition of animal fats are composed of fatty acids and glycerol. This
discovery contributed to the rapid development of the soap and candle
1. Soap is a cleansing agents produced by the reaction between sodium
hydroxide or potassium hydroxide with animal fats or vegetable oils. This
reaction is known as saponification.
2. Fats and vegetable oils are large, naturally occurring ester molecules. When
fats or oils are boiled with concentrated alkalis, such as sodium hydroxide,
saponification occur and the ester molecules are broken down into soap and
3. Saponification is the alkaline hydrolysis of ester using alkali solutions. From the chemist aspect, soaps are sodium salts or potassium salts of long chain carboxylic acids (with 12 to 18 carbon atoms per molecule).
4. Some examples of soaps are shown below.
a) Sodium palmitate, C15H31COONa
b) Sodium oleate, C17H33COONa
c) Sodium stearate, C17H35COONa
5. Glyceryl tristearates are naturally occurring esters commonly found in animal
fats and vegetable oils. When the ester is boiled with concentrated sodium
hydroxide solution, saponification (alkaline hydrolysis) occurs and mixture of
sodium stearate (soap) and glycerol is obtained.
8. The properties of soap depend on :
a) The type of alkali used for saponification
b) The type of animal fats or vegetable oils used.
1. When soap is dissolved in water, it will dissociate and produce sodium ions
and carboxylate ions (RCOO-). For example, sodium stearate dissolves in
water to form sodium ions and stearate ions.
2. The active substance in soap is the carboxylate ion, for example, stearate
ion. The stearate ion consist of two parts : the \u2018head\u2019 and the \u2018tail\u2019. The
\u2018head\u2019 id negatively charged and the \u2018tail\u2019 is a long hydrocarbon chain.
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