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Roger Weller, geology instructor

by Sabrina Espinosa
Physical Geology
Fall 2013


Salt: The Highlights of Halite


A Short, Short on Salt

Halite or table salt, as it is more commonly known among its consumers is a simple but much needed compound in everyday life.  This mineral composed of nothing more than sodium and chlorine ions can be found in nearly every single corner of the world and in most living and non living organisms.  From the depths of the Pacific Ocean to the tops of the Himalayan Mountains; halite is a main component of these wondersí compositions.  It is used not only as an enhancer for tasty dishes but as well as healing purposes.  Though small this mineral packs quite a punch.

The Brief behind the Bond

 Halite, sodium chloride, or salt is made up of equal parts of sodium and chlorine. Haliteís chemical formula is NaCI, the Na standing for sodium and the CI for chlorine. This ionic compound has an isometric or cubic structure due to the way the atoms come together.  There are a variety of these cubic structures but the one most common in halite are the rock salt or sodium chloride structuresThe ionic compounds fuse because the atoms donít share electrons.  Atoms that have only one or very few electrons in their valence shell are very vulnerable to losing them. If another atom comes along with lots of electrons in its valence shell, but not quite enough to be complete, the other atom's lonely old electron will get snatched away to join the shell with lots of electrons, and make a complete electron shell. When this happens though, a discrepancy in charge is created. The atom that now has the extra electron that it is not supposed to have has a more negative charge, and the atom that got its electron stolen has a more positive charge. This is a perfect example of opposites attract, and in this case the attraction is so strong that the two atoms become fused to each other.  This ionic bond is a result of a chemical bond which is where one atom gives up an electron and the other atom gives up another electron at the same time thus forming two ions of opposite charge generating an electrical force that holds the atoms together, this force is the attraction between positively and negatively charged ions.

Now You See Me and Now You Donít

            In 1930 Mahatma Gandhiís famous salt march, an act of non-violent protest to the British salt tax in Colonial India, took place.  At that time the British controlled the trade of salt among most of the world. Gandhi began his journey to the Arabian Sea in March.  He walked for 240 miles and 23 days later on April 5, 1930; Gandhi arrived, picked up a handful of salty mud and proclaimed, ďWith this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.Ē He proceeded to boil some seawater as an act of rebellion but thru this boiling of the saltwater Mahatma was demonstrating the evaporative properties of salt and how salt crystallizes once the H2o has been removed.  This process leaves mineral deposits that can be mined and used for various things.  There are many evaporites but salt is one of the most commonly known throughout the world. The process of evaporation is a factor in how the salt crystals get their shape, the result of water dissipating form the cubic or isometric form of the salt.

The Different Hues of Halite

            There are many varieties when it comes to the color of salts.  Halite does not come in just the standard transparent white, it can be found in brilliant pinks and stunning blacks.  This is due to the minerals in the salt.  The beautiful pinks found in Himalayan salt are caused by the iron oxides absorbed into the salt; the radically different black salt comes from NaCi mixing with activated charcoal giving it the deep black color. The beautiful purple tinted salt is actually a salt that is used quite often in Pakistan and India. This salt is a very pungent smelling salt and is mixed with iron sulfide which is what gives it the violet hue.  When it comes to salt and all the different colors it is quite interesting to see all the different combinations of color and taste.  Due to the variety of minerals in the different salts the flavors vary just like their colors.

Seasoning Salt and Healing Halite

            Salt; most use this product to make bland things taste much better.  It is one of the most commonly known seasonings and can pretty much be found in everything consumed by humans.  flavor of foods by pulling more of the flavor out of the food so it is more potent to the consumer.  Perking up bland food is not the only thing salt is good for.  Most people know about salt being a food flavor maker, but that no the only thing salt can do, it is also believed to have healing powers.  Though this is a much needed mineral for survival some believe that certain salts have spiritual healing powers.  For example, the Himalayan salt crystal is believed to emit negative ions which attract positive ions.  The salt crystal lamp is made of a solid piece of salt with a small recess for a light bulb or candle which creates a very attractive glow.  It is because of this soft glow many people believe it purifies the air as well as attracts positive ions which in turn soothes and calms. 

Conclusion to the Highlights of Halite

 It is really quite interesting how this simple and small mineral has such an extraordinary existence. This mineral can be found in oceans, organisms, and almost everything else.  Not only has salt started a revolution, it is a necessary factor for a healthy lifestyle and not to mention salt enhances countless dishes.  Salt is a mineral that though may seem to have a basic AB structure is anything but.