A white crystalline compound used in beverages and as a leavening agent to make baked goods. In medicine, sodium bicarbonate is used as an antacid and cleanser and to replenish electrolytes. Also called baking soda, bicarbonate of soda. Chemical formula: NaHCO3.
A Closer Look A white, chalky powder, sodium bicarbonate also goes by its household name, baking soda. Sodium bicarbonate is a base and reacts with acids in what is called neutralization, because both the acid and the base are converted into more neutral substances on the pH scale. Neutralization with sodium bicarbonate usually produces carbon dioxide gas, which bubbles forth whenever vinegar (an acid) and baking soda are mixed (as they frequently are in “kitchen science” experiments). Such reactions are an important factor in baking, where the production of the gas is what causes cakes to rise. Sodium bicarbonate has long been used in small amounts (about a half teaspoon) mixed with water to neutralize excess stomach acid. Sodium bicarbonate also has the unique ability to neutralize substances that are more basic than it is. It can do this because in water, sodium bicarbonate breaks down ultimately into carbonic acid (H2CO3),
an unstable acid, which can then react with a base to neutralize it. This ability to neutralize both acids and many bases is why baking soda is so effective at reducing odors.