Scientists Say: Salt

This is more than just seasoning for your food


This isn’t a gemstone. It’s a salt! This is copper sulfate.

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Salt (noun, “Salt”)

Yes, salt is the crystal we use to season our food. But in chemistry, salt is a term used to describe a compound made by joining a positively charged acid with a negatively charged base. Table salt is the compound sodium chloride. It’s composed of a positively charged sodium atom and a negatively charged chloride atom.

There are many other salts in the world, though. Copper sulfate, for instance, is also a salt. It’s made of one copper atom, one sulfur atom and four oxygen atoms. It’s often found in chemistry sets but also is used to kill fungi and weeds. Cobalt nitrate is a red salt that is used in the preparation of some dyes and inks. It’s got one cobalt atom, two nitrogen atoms and six oxygen atoms. And lead diacetate, found in some hair colorings, is a salt that can cause lead poisoning. 

In a sentence

Sodium chloride salt usually forms tidy cubes — unless diamonds and lasers get involved.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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