Alkali Metals SOP

Standard Operating Procedure
Read the EH&S Standard Operating Procedures Fact Sheet before filling out this form.
Print out the completed form and keep a readily accessible hard copy in the lab (also
keeping an electronic copy is highly recommended).
November 21, 2010
SOP Title:
Alkali metals – Li, Na, K
Principal Investigator:
Richmond Sarpong
Room and Building:
841A Latimer Hall
Lab Phone Number:
(510) 643-2485
Section 1 – Process
The handling and usage of alkali metals, specifically lithium, sodium, and potassium.
Section 2 – Hazardous Chemicals
Lithium, sodium, and potassium metal.
Section 3 – Potential Hazards
Alkali metals react very vigorously with water resulting in the formation of hydrogen gas. This gas
can then spontaneously ignite, causing fires. Additionally, if inhaled, the dust of alkali-metal oxides can
cause damage to the mucous membranes and upper respiratory tracts. Contact of any of these metals
with the skin or eyes may results in burns. Caustic oxides are formed as the metals burn.
Of these three, potassium and the liquid alloy of potassium and sodium are the most reactive, while
lithium is the least reactive.
Section 4 – Approvals Required
Use of lithium, sodium, or potassium metal requires proper training and demonstration of correct
technique by an appropriate lab member. The MSDS sheets should also be consulted before first use.
These metals must not be used when working alone.
Section 5 – Designated Area
Lithium, sodium, and potassium metals should only be used in a dry environment away from sparks
or any source of ignition. Good ventilation and access to a dry chemical or dry powder fire extinguisher
are also necessary. The area where the metals will be handled should be free of other chemicals and
flammable objects.
Section 6 – Special Handling Procedures and Storage Requirements
Stored in a dry, cool place away from any source of ignition. Store under paraffin oil, mineral oil, or
kerosene . When cutting or weighing out sodium or potassium,
they must be kept under hexanes or toluene as much as possible to prevented them from reaction
with the moisture in the air.
The container holding the metal must be kept closed, and the amount of material
exposed to the air kept to a minimum. N2 is not an inert gas for lithium, as lithium nitride is formed
and can also react violently with water. Lithium should therefore not be kept under nitrogen for
a prolonged period of time (use Ar instead).
Section 7 – Personal Protective Equipment
Respiratory protection
Where risk assessment shows air-purifying respirators are appropriate use a full-face particle
respirator type N100 (US) or type P3 (EN 143) respirator cartridges as a backup to engineering
controls. Use respirators and components tested and approved under appropriate government
standards such as NIOSH (US) or CEN (EU).
Hand protection
Handle with gloves.
Eye protection
Safety glasses.
Skin and body protection
A flame-retardant lab coat must be worn while handling these compounds.
Hygiene measures
Handle in accordance with good industrial hygiene and safety practice. Wash hands before breaks and
at the end of workday.
Section 8 – Engineering/Ventilation Controls
Ensure adequate ventilation.
Section 9 – Spill and Accident Procedures
EHS&S and Campus Safety should be called in the event of a large spill or fire: (Emergencies: 911 or
642-3333 from a cell phone; Non-emergencies: EHS&S 642-3073, UCPD 642-6760)
DO NOT use water to attempt to extinguish a reactive material fire as it can actually enhance the
Do not use combustible materials (paper towels) to clean up a spill, as these may increase the risk of
igniting the reactive compound. Soda ash (powdered lime) or dry sand should be used to completely
smother and cover any small spill that occurs.
A container of soda ash (powdered lime) or dry sand should be kept within arm’s length when
working with a reactive material.
If anyone is exposed, or on fire, smothering the fire is a better course of action than washing with
water because water can fuel the fire.
Class D extinguishers are recommended for combustible solid metal fires.
Call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance and for assistance with all fires, even if extinguished.
Section 10 – Waste Disposal
After completion of the cutting process, the weigh boat or other weighing container should be rinsed
carefully with a solvent which will react with the excess metal much more slowly than with water (i.e.
methanol, isopropanol).
Disposal of Pyrophoric Reagents
Any container with a residue of reactive materials should never be left open to the atmosphere.
Any unused or unwanted reactive materials must be destroyed by transferring the materials to an
appropriate reaction flask for hydrolysis and/or neutralization with adequate cooling.
Section 11 - Decontamination
All materials – disposable gloves, wipers, bench paper, etc. - that are contaminated with pyrophoric
chemicals should be disposed as hazardous waste (after appropriate quenching of the compound, see
section 10).
Training Documentation
Name (Printed)