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What is Nitric Acid?

Whilst nitric acid has been known of for a long time; its existence was first thought to have been identified in the ninth century by an Arabian alchemist and it has been known by other common names such as ‘aqua fortis’ and ‘spirit of niter’, though its ‘rise to fame’ began in the early stages of the 20th Century.

Nitric acid can best be described as the result of a number of chemical reactions that produce a colorless corrosive and toxic mineral acid which tends toward having a yellow color when stored for any length of time, due to an accumulation of nitric oxides.

The essence of the reactive process (Nitric Acid Formula) is to blend oxygen and ammonium nitrate (NH3) at high temperatures in the presence of platinum and rhodium (which act as catalysts in the process) to produce Nitrous Oxide which, when dissolved in water, produced nitric acid – also known as NHO3.

In its common form nitric acid has a concentration of around 68%, when in a solution containing more than 86%; it is referred to as fuming nitric acid. Depending on the amount of nitrogen dioxide present, fuming nitric acid is further characterized as white fuming or red fuming, at concentrations above 95%. Nitric acid is also commonly used as a strong oxidizing agent.

Whilst available in many concentrations and each offers different properties the chemical has numerous uses in industry and agriculture, the main ones being:

- As an integral part of explosives manufacture

- As an agricultural fertilizer

- A component of solid rocket fuels, acting as an oxidizer

- As a chemical reagent to identify various other metals

- In woodworking to ‘age’ wood.

- In the jewelry trade nitric acid can be used as an inexpensive process to identify and assess purity of gold, particularly when in low-grade alloys.

- When in a solution with alcohol and water to etch metals.

The Nitric acid is commonly used in the food processing and dairy sectors to remove calcium and magnesium deposited during the manufacturing or conversion processes or which may result from continued exposure to hard-water.

In order to properly manage all tasks involving this substance it is compulsory to read (at least once) and apply the regulations detailed in the nitric acid MSDS.

More information on Wikipedia.

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