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Define Nitric Acid: Describe Its Structure In Detail - State Its Formula And Uses.

Referencing Styles : APA | Pages : 1

The most common substance that a human being encounter more often that they think is the nitric acid. A human being will encounter nitric acid if he bought a bag of fertilizer of been caught in the rain. The manufacturing of fertilizer is actually the most common use of the nitric acid. Perhaps more interestingly, rain water is naturally acidic, which means there is a small concentration of nitric acid present in it.

Nitric acid is a highly corrosive acidic substance. Its physical state is a colorless liquid with a slight yellowish tint. Nitric acid dissolves metals such as iron, copper and silver.  The nitric acid acts as an oxidizing agent, a substance that readily accepts electrons from another substance.

The chemical formula of the nitric acid is HNO3, which indicates that it has one hydrogen atom, one nitrogen atom and three oxygen atoms.

All three oxygen atoms are bonded to the nitrogen atom. the nitrogen atom carries a charge of +1 and one oxygen atom carries a charge of -1. A positive charge on an atom indicates that is electro negative and a negative charge on an atom indicates that it is more electronegative. Nitrogen is therefore less electronegative than the oxygen atoms because nitrogen carries a positive charge. 


Nitric acid is prepared by combining nitrogen dioxide with water

3no2+H2O – 2HNO3 +NO

The nitric oxide by product is usually gets oxidized again by the oxygen in air to produce additional dioxide starting material.

The commercial production of the nitric acid is made by oxidizing anhydrous ammonia to nitric oxide is the presence of the platinum catalyst at a high temperature.

Physical properties

Nitric acid is a liquid acid with an acrid, pungent and suffocating odor. There are different concentrations of nitric acid available, and they are colorless, yellow and red accordingly. The industrial grade is about 68 % in water commercial grade is between 52% and 68% fuming nitric acid is 86% or higher, while concentrations above 95% are called white fuming or red fuming nitric acid.

Chemical properties

Nitric acid is a strong, monocratic acid. it readily forms solid hydrates such as the monohydrates (hno3 3h2o) and the trihydrate (hno3*3h2o). nitric acid can be decomposed by heat or light as shown below


It is a powerful oxidizing agent, and reacts violently with many non metallic compounds. It also reacts with metals to dissolve them, from metal oxides.

Nitric acid should be handled with care as it is a highly corrosive acid it causes severe skin burn, being a strong acid and oxidizer, it can completely decompose tissues. Even the diluted acids can cause burns and stain the skin yellow by reacting with the skin protein. The pungent fumes are also very irritating and damaging to eyes, throat and mucous membrane. 

Environmental effects of nitric acid

Acid rain disposition

Nitric oxide reacts with the  hydroperoxy radical to form nitrogen dioxide which then can react with a hydroxyl radical to produce nitric acid (HNO3)



Nitric acid along with the sulfuric acid, contributes to acid rain disposition.

Ozone depletion

Nitrogen oxide participates in the ozone layer depletion. nitric oxide reacts with stratospheric ozone to form o2and nitrogen dioxide.

NO + O3- NO2+O2

This reaction is also utilized to measure concentrations of NO in control volumes.

Precursor to NO2

As seen in the acid disposition section, nitric oxide can transform into nitrogen dioxide (this can happen with the hydropreoxy radical, HO2 or diatomic oxygen). Symptoms of short term nitrogen dioxide exposure include nausea, dyspnea and headache. Long term effects could include impaired immune and respiratory function.

Structure of nitric acid

The structure of nitric acid is planar, whi8ch means that the chemical structure is flat. There are two major resonance form of nitric acid. Resonance form occurs when there are multiple ways of drawing the Lewis structure of a compound. A Lewis structure is a diagram that shows how atoms and blended together and illustrates the presence of non bonded pairs of electrons in a compound. The double headed arrow that is drawn between the two resonance structures is there to show that there is more than one way to draw the structure.

Uses of nitric acid fertilizer

  The main use of nitric acid is that it is used as a raw material to produce other substances. This makes it important in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The most common use of nitric acid is to make fertilizer. On e of the most effective use of nitric acid is in the production of fertilizer, the nitric acid is reacted with ammonia to produce ammonium nitrate which is the most essential ingredient for the preparation of the fertilizer.

Uses of nitric acid in the aerospace industry

In the propellants of rockets a liquid oxidizer is combined with fuel to. Nitric acid being a strong oxidizing agents has been used as the oxidizer in the liquid fueled rockets. The form of nitrogen used as the rocket propellant are usually white fuming nitric acid a storable oxidizer that consists of highly concentrated nitric acid around greater than 95% and red fuming nitric acid which is also used as the storable oxidizer with a nitric acid concentration of around 84%.

Other uses of nitric acid

Nitric acid is also used as precursor to make organic nitrogen containing compounds such as nylon and it is also used to make nitrate salts like ammonium nitrate, silver nitrate and calcium nitrate.

Biological functions

Nitric acid provides nitric oxide which acts as a gaseous signaling molecule. It is a key vertebrate biological molecule. It is a key vertebrate biological messenger, playing a role in a variety of biological process. It is known as the bio product in almost all types of organisms, ranging from bacteria to plants, fungi, and animal cells.

Etchant and cleaning agent 

The corrosive effect of nitric acid is exploited for some specialty applications, such as etching in printmaking, pickling stainless steel or cleaning silicon wafers in electronics.


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