Nitric Acid

Nitric acid (chemical or molecular formula HNO3) is also known by other names such as azotic acid or aqua fortis. In its unadulterated state, nitric acid is clear and colorless in appearance. On the other hand, when various oxides of nitrogen build up in it, it gives nitric acid a yellow cast over a period of time. Fumes exuded by this hygroscopic liquid have a choking odour. Nitric acid's molar mass is 63.012g/mol-1 and its density is 1.5129 g/cm3. As nitric acid is a very potent acid, it dissolves in water easily. The melting point of nitric acid is -44 °F or 231 K, while the boiling point of this acid is 181 °F or 365K.

In fact, we encounter nitric acid more frequently than we think. You have come across nitric acid when you have purchased a bag of fertilizer or even when you have been caught in a downpour. The most common use of this chemical compound is actually in the manufacture of fertilizers. What is possibly more interesting is the fact that rainwater is acidic in nature. In other words, rainwater contains a very small amount of nitric acid.

It is worth mentioning here that nitric acid is an extremely corrosive substance. While it is generally colorless and clear in its pure form, occasionally this acid may also have a yellowish tone. This acid is so strong that it easily dissolves metals like copper, iron and silver. Moreover, nitric acid is a potent oxidizing agent. In other words, it accepts electrons from various other substances very readily.

Since the chemical formula of nitric acid is HNO3, it comprises a solitary hydrogen (H) atom, one nitrogen (N) atom and three oxygen (O) atoms. All the oxygen atoms in nitric acid are linked to the solitary nitrogen atom in it.

Uses of nitric acid

Similar to ammonia, manufacture of fertilizers is among the key uses of nitric acid. Since nitric acid is an excellent oxidizing agent, it is also utilized in the production of various inorganic compounds. Nevertheless, there are various other uses of nitric acid too. It has a number of industrial applications, in addition to having several applications in our daily life. In this article we shall discuss the various uses of this chemical compounds.

Nitric acid (HNO3) is known to be the main chemical compound for production of various different chemical compounds. This potent acid finds applications in manufacture of various types of polymers, which include polyurethane and polyamides. In addition, in the aerospace industry, nitric acid is often used in the form of rocket propellants. Moreover, nitric acid is used in the manufacture of various nitrogen-based compounds, such as nylon, in addition to majority of explosives such as nitroglycerin, trinitrotoluene (also known as T.N.T.) among various other things.

There are various other uses of nitric acid, such as in nitrate salt production, manufacture of dyes, coal tar products and also drugs. In addition, this acid is more often than not employed to purify precious metals like gold, silver as well as platinum.

As far as production of fertilizers is concerned, nitric acid is used for manufacturing various different varieties of nitrogenous fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate among other things. Nitric acid is also a main component that is a by-product in the process involved in producing ammonia.

Most commonly, nitric acid (HNO3) is found in schools where students use this chemical substance as a laboratory reagent. Nitric acid is watered down and used in wood works, especially to fabricate pine and maple wood with the aim to make these wood old. In addition, nitric acid is utilized in the food industries to help clean foods as well as equipment and other things.

One of the significant uses of nitric acid includes its use to spot test various alkaloids such as LSD. In addition, nitric acid is also required in another test called colorimetric, which is conducted to distinguish between heroin and morphine.

As mentioned earlier, it is also utilized in the form of a precursor to manufacture organic compounds containing nitrogen, for instance nylon. In addition, this acid is also employed for production of various nitrate salts such as calcium nitrate, ammonium nitrate and silver nitrate.

Do you know what is used to propel rockets that venture out into the outer space? In fact, in aerospace industry, various types of propellants are used by rockets. Liquid-fuelled rockets use a liquid oxidizer that is blended with fuel. Since nitric acid is a very potent oxidizing agent, it has been utilized in the form of an oxidizer in liquid-fuelled rockets.

There are various varieties of nitrogen that are used as rocket propellants. Usually these include white fuming nitric acid or WFNA, which is an oxidizer that can be stored and comprises extremely high concentrated nitric acid - which is roughly more than 95 per cent, and red fuming nitric acid or RFNA, which is also an oxidizer that can be stored and have a nitric acid concentration of approximately 84 percent.

Nitric acid is also used extensively in the form of a laboratory reagent in the field of chemistry. This potent acid is also used for production of dyes and drugs from a variety of coal tar products. Nitric acid is also used to purify various expensive metals such as gold, silver and even platinum. In the field of metallurgy, nitric acid is utilized together with alcohol for engraving designs on metals such as copper, bronze, brass and others. This acid is also used for preparing "aqua regia" (which is nitrohydrochloric acid - molecular formula Cl3H4NO3). Nitrohydrochloric acid is actually the fuming liquid which is used as a solvent to dissolve noble elements.

The aqueous blend of nitric acid is employed for cleaning foods as well as diary equipment because it is effective in getting rid of precipitated magnesium and calcium compound from the equipment used in diary.

Aside from its various industrial uses, nitric acid (HNO3) is also essential for the growth of plants. However, plants are incapable of directly absorbing nitric acid or for that matter nitrogen from the atmosphere. When it rains, especially when there are thunderstorms, the atmosphere contains plenty of nitric acid owing to the chemical reaction that results in acid rain. Nitric acid present in rains dissolves in water and eventually goes into the soil. Plants absorb the acid from the soil and, in this way; they meet their entire nitrogen requirement.

All the above properties make nitric acid a very useful chemical compound. However, one should not ignore the harmful effects of nitric acid as it is a very potent oxidizing and corrosive agent. Since nitric acid is a powerful oxidizing agent, it can cause an explosion very easily when it is exposed to other chemical compounds such as carbides and cyanides. Keeping these hazardous aspects of nitric acid in view, it is very important to handle chemical compounds like this acid with maximum care and avoid disasters.


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