The chloralkali process—in which chlorine and caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) are produced simultaneously by electrolytic decomposition of salt (sodium chloride)—has become the principal source of chlorine during the 20th century.
The main raw material is brine which is a saturated solution of sodium chloride (NaCl) that is obtained from natural salt deposits.
The products of this industry have a number of important uses. Chlorine is used to purify water, and is used as a disinfectant. It is also used in the manufacture of many every-day items such as hypochlorous acid, which is used to kill bacteria in drinking water. Chlorine is also used in paper production, antiseptics, food, insecticides, paints, petroleum products, plastics (such as polyvinyl chloride or PVC), medicines, textiles, solvents, and many other consumer products. Many chemical products such as chloroform and carbon tetrachloride also contain chlorine.
Sodium hydroxide (also known as ‘caustic soda’) has a number of uses, which include making soap and other cleaning agents, purifying bauxite (the ore of aluminium), making paper and making rayon (artificial silk).