Nitric acid

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-42 °C, 231 K, -44 °F

83 °C, 356 K, 181 °F (68% solution boils at 121 °C)

Nitric acid (HNO3), also known as aqua fortis and spirit of nitre, is a highly corrosive and toxic strong acid.

Colorless when pure, older samples tend to acquire a yellow cast due to the accumulation of oxides of nitrogen. If the solution contains more than 86% nitric acid, it is referred to as fuming nitric acid. Fuming nitric acid is characterized as white fuming nitric acid and red fuming nitric acid, depending on the amount of nitrogen dioxide present. At concentrations above 95% at room temperature, nitric acid tends to rapidly develop a yellow color due to decomposition. Nitric acid is also commonly used as a strong oxidizing agent.

Contents

Properties

Pure anhydrous nitric acid (100%) is a colorless mobile liquid with a density of 1.522 g/cm3 which solidifies at −42 °C to form white crystals and boils at 83 °C. When boiling in light, and slowly even at room temperature, there is a partial decomposition with the formation of nitrogen dioxide following the reaction:

which means that anhydrous nitric acid should be stored below 0 °C to avoid decomposition. The nitrogen dioxide (NO2) remains dissolved in the nitric acid coloring it yellow, or red at higher temperatures. While the pure acid tends to give off white fumes when exposed to air, acid with dissolved nitrogen dioxide gives off reddish-brown vapors, leading to the common name "red fuming acid" or "fuming nitric acid". Fuming nitric acid is also referred to as 16 molar nitric acid. It is the most concentrated form of nitric acid at Standard Temperature and Pressure (STP).

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