What is Nitric Acid? (HNO3)
Nitric acid is an aqueous chemical that is also known as hydrogen nitrate or aqua fortis, which means “strong water.” Most nitric acid has a concentration of 68% in water, and it is a highly corrosive mineral acid.
Nitric acid is often pale yellow as a result of photochemical decomposition which releases NO2. At room temperature 100% pure anhydrous nitric acid is a liquid, but becomes a colorless white solid below -41°C and boils at 83°C. The pure compound can be colorless, yellow, or a red fuming liquid with an acrid, suffocating odor.
Industries and Applications for Nitric Acid
The main industries that use nitric acid and how they use it are as follows:
- Making fertilizer by reacting with ammonium to make ammonium nitrate
- Etching steel
- conducts electricity when under water – electrolyte and strong acid
- Making explosives such as nitroglycerin and TNT
- Food and beverage
- Sanitation chemicals
- Inside the home
- Dishwashing detergents
- Making plastics
- Manufacturing dyes
- Ore flotation
- Is a caustic to remove chancres and warts in its pure state
- Used in the treatment of dyspepsia when diluted
- Used in a colorimetric test to distinguish heroin and morphine
These are some additional things you might not know about nitric acid:
- When nitric acid is combined with hydrochloric acid, an element called aqua regia is formed which is a rare substance that can dissolve gold and platinum.
- Nitric acid is a component of acid rain (when NOx gases dissolve in water vapour in the clouds).
- Due to a reaction with the protein keratin, your skin will turn yellow if you spill concentrated nitric acid on it.
Health Rating: 3 – The chemical has met Safer Choice Criteria for its functional ingredient class, but has some hazard profile issues. In other words, a chemical with this code is not associated with a low hazard concern for environmental endpoints and human health.
[Toxic – Inhalation, ingestion, or contact with skin or eyes with vapors, dusts, or substance may cause severe injury, burns, or death. Toxic, corrosive, or flammable gases may be released if there is a reaction with water or moist air. It may also generate too much heat that will increase the concentration of fumes in the air. Fire will produce irritating, corrosive and/or toxic gases. Runoff from fire control or dilution water may be corrosive and/or toxic and cause pollution.]
Refer to this Safety Data Sheet for more regulations on how to handle nitric acid safely.