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Sodium Acetate Reusable Heat Packs: How do they Work?

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The Sodium Acetate Heat Packs contain a saturated solution of Sodium Acetate as well as one or more small stainless steel concave discs.

Almost any liquid is reluctant to freeze when it reaches its freezing point. It is only after the first crystal forms, in the freezing process, that the balance follows suit quite rapidly. During this freezing process the liquid will stay at the temperature that it freezes at, until the very last crystal has solidified, and only then will the frozen substance conform to the ambient temperature of its surroundings. For example, while water is freezing it will remain at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) until completely frozen and will only then cool to the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere. How rapidly it conforms to the surrounding, ambient, temperature depends on how well it is insulated. If insulated well it will be slow but if not insulated at all the process will happen more rapidly.

It is possible to "super cool" water and keep it in its liquid form well below its freezing temperature, but this is difficult as the water must be totally pure (distilled) and the container must be completely smooth to ensure that there are no blemishes to give the first ice crystal an opportunity to form. Even then it is very hard to achieve as even the slightest tremor will set the freezing process in motion (like the vibration of the compressor in a domestic refrigerator). 

Regardless of how cold we managed to get our container of water when it freezes it will return to 32 degrees Fahrenheit until completely frozen. This sudden gain in temperature results in it heating its immediate environment by shedding the unwanted energy in the form of heat.

Sodium acetate freezes at 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius). 

Sodium acetate forms a very stable liquid making it easy to cool it way below its freezing point while remaining in its liquid form. In its liquid form it can tolerate very low relative temperatures before it freezes spontaneously and is also reasonably immune to movement, which is why it is the ideal substance for use in reuseable heat packs. Sodium acetate reusable heat packs can safely be stored in liquid form at room temperature for prolonged periods.

Clicking the small stainless steel disc in the heat pack causes one or more crystals to form in its immediate proximity, which is then followed rapidly by all of the contents of the heat pack crystallising.  The heat pack's temperature will immediately rise to 130 degrees F (approximately the temperature produced by domestic hot water systems) and will remain at 130 degrees F until the entire contents of the sodium acetate heat pack has crystallised. Depending on the size of the heat pack and the insulation of the reusable heat pack it will then gradually lose warmth until it reaches the ambient temperature (between half an hour to two hours).

Raising the temperature of the rechargeable heat pack to above 130 degrees Fahrenheit will "melt" the sodium acetate and return it to liquid (every single crystal must be dissolved otherwise it will freeze upon cooling) which can then be allowed to cool without solidifying making it available for use later. 

 

 

* Statements made have not been evaluated by American Food and Drug Authority or similar board or authority of any other country.
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