Nitric Acid: Properties, Uses, and Safety Precautions

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“Nitric Acid: Properties, Uses, and Safety Precautions”

Aqua fortis or spirit of niter is a common name for nitric acid, a highly toxic and corrosive liquid. The chemical industry widely uses it to produce fertilizers, dyes, explosives, and other chemicals. This blog aims to provide a detailed discussion of the associated properties, uses, and safety precautions of nitric acid.



Properties of Nitric Acid

Nitric acid is a clear, colorless liquid with a pungent odor. It is a potent oxidizing agent & is highly corrosive to metals, plastics, and organic materials. The concentration of nitric acid is usually expressed as a percentage by weight or volume. Commercially available nitric acid solutions typically range from 50% to 70% concentration.


Chemical Formula and Structure

Nitric acid has the chemical formula HNO3. It has a trigonal planar form & is a polar molecule. Three oxygen atoms that each have a partial negative charge are positioned around the nitrogen atom, providing the molecule a net dipole moment.


Physical Properties

Nitric acid has a density of 1.42 g/cm³ & a boiling point of 83°C. It is soluble in water & ethanol but is insoluble in ether & chloroform. Nitric acid can react violently with many organic compounds, releasing heat & toxic gases.



Uses of Nitric Acid

Nitric acid has a wide range of industrial applications. Some of the common uses of nitric acid are:

  • Production of Fertilizers

A vital ingredient in the creation of the fertilizer ammonium nitrate is nitric acid. A source of nitrogen for plants, ammonium nitrate is a vital nutrient for their development.

  • Manufacturing of Explosives

Trinitrotoluene (TNT) & nitroglycerin, two explosives, are made using nitric acid. These explosives are employed in the mining, construction, & in applications of the military.

  • Production of Dyes

To make dyes & pigments, nitric acid is employed. It is employed to nitrate aromatic compounds including benzene, toluene, & aniline, which are further used as intermediates in the manufacture of dyes.

  • Etching and Pickling

Nitric acid is used for metal etching & pickling. It is used to remove rust and other impurities from metals such as iron & steel.



Safety Precautions

It is extremely dangerous & corrosive to use nitric acid. If inhaled, it can damage the lungs and cause serious burns when it comes into contact with one’s skin & eyes. When using nitric acid, safety precautions must be used. Among the safety measures are:

  • Protective Gear

When handling nitric acid, put on safety gear, gloves, and eyewear. If skin or eyes are in contact, immediately flush with water.

  • Storage

Store nitric acid in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area away from incompatible materials such as organic compounds & reducing agents.

  • Handling

Handle nitric acid with care and avoid mixing it with other chemicals. Never heat nitric acid or try to concentrate it by evaporation.




Nitric acid is a highly useful chemical with a wide range of industrial applications. However, it is important to handle it with care & follow safety precautions to prevent accidents & injuries. Always store, handle, and dispose of nitric acid in a safe & responsible manner.






Is nitric acid dangerous to handle?

Yes, nitric acid is a highly corrosive & toxic chemical that requires proper handling & safety precautions to avoid accidents & injury.

What is nitric acid used for in the chemical industry?
A crucial raw component in the production of chemicals is nitric acid. Ammonium nitrate, a crucial component of fertilizers, explosives, as well as other chemical goods, is produced using it.

Can nitric acid be used as a cleaning agent?
Yes, nitric acid is used in the metallurgy industry to etch, clean, and polish metals.

How should nitric acid be stored?
Nitric acid should be stored in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area. It should be stored separately from other chemicals, especially organic compounds & reducing agents, which can react violently with nitric acid.

How should nitric acid be disposed of?
In accordance with local regulations, nitric acid disposal should be done. It shouldn’t ever be dumped in the garbage or down the drain. Nitric acid that hasn’t been used should be kept safely in storage until it can be disposed of.



What is the boiling point of nitric acid?
Nitric acid boils at about 83 degrees Celsius, or 181 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can nitric acid cause chemical burns?
Yes, nitric acid can cause severe chemical burns on the skin & eyes.

Is nitric acid flammable?
Nitric acid isn’t flammable, therefore no.

Can nitric acid react with metals?
Indeed, metals like copper, silver, and mercury can react with nitric acid.

What are the hazards associated with nitric acid?
Nitric acid has a number of risks, including corrosion, toxicity, and chemical reactivity.



What is the pH of nitric acid?
Nitric acid is a strong acid, and its pH is typically around 1.

How is nitric acid produced?
Nitric acid is produced through the oxidation of ammonia, using a catalytic reaction with oxygen.

What is the colour of nitric acid?
Nitric acid is typically colorless, but it can sometimes appear yellow due to the presence of nitrogen oxides.

Can nitric acid cause respiratory problems?
Yes, nitric acid fumes can cause respiratory problems, such as coughing & shortness of breath.

What safety equipment should be used when handling nitric acid?
When handling nitric acid, safety equipment such as gloves, safety goggles, and a respirator should be worn to protect against contact with the skin, eyes, and lungs.



Can nitric acid be used in food production?
No, nitric acid is not safe for use in food production.

How can nitric acid be transported safely?
Nitric acid should be transported in a secure, well-ventilated container, & should not be exposed to high temperatures or direct sunlight.

What are some common uses of nitric acid in agriculture?
Fertilizers necessary for crop growth, such as urea & ammonium nitrate, are produced using nitric acid.

Is nitric acid stable at room temperature?
Nitric acid is a highly reactive chemical & can decompose over time, especially if exposed to sunlight or other sources of heat.

Can nitric acid be used as rocket fuel?
No, nitric acid is not used as rocket fuel, but it can be used as an oxidizer in rocket engines.


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