Although Nitric Acid has many uses in industry, there are also a number of important uses of Nitric Acid in the laboratory. For example, HNO3 is used for cleaning NMR tubes because it leaves no ionic residue unlike the alternative cleaning material, Chromic Acid, which does have a tendency to leave ionic residues.
Nitric Acid is also used in Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrometry because it is capable of dissolving metals into solution for analysis. HNO3 can also be used in a similar way in ICPMS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry), again for analysis in the laboratory. Nitric Acid is also used to clean and etch glassware in the laboratory. Nitric Acid can be used to detect the presence of chloride in the production of soda ash.
When using Nitric Acid in the laboratory, it is essential that the potential hazards are understood. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must always be worn and this should include protective clothing and full eye protection. Inhalation of Nitric Acid will damage the soft tissue of the nasal passages, respiratory tract and lungs and this damage may be permanent. Skin must always be protected as Nitric Acid can cause serious and severe burns, resulting in permanent damage to the soft tissue. Fumes of Nitric Acid are very 'Toxic' and cause serious damage so it should always be handled in a well-ventilated area. If ventilation or fume-extraction is not available, beathing apparatus must be worn. Full face protection should be worn if handling large quantities of Nitric Acid.
Nitric Acid also has many important uses in industry including the production of fertilizers and in the purification of metals. HNO3 can also be used to produce explosives.
When using Nitric Acid in the laboratory, it is important to remember the various synonyms by which is it known. These include Aqua Fortis (literally 'Strong Water'), Spirit of Nitre and the chemical formulation NHO3. All these names refer to the same product. When using particularly high concentrations of Nitric Acid in the laboratory, these may be referred to as Fuming Nitric Acid, Furing Aqua Fortis, Fuming Spirit of Nitre or Fuming HNO3. Fuming Nitric Acid is highly Corrosive and Toxic with a concentration of Nitric Acid in excess of 86%. Fuming Nitric Acid can be Red Fuming HNO3 or White Fuming Nitric Acid dependent on the amount of Nitrogen Dioxide in the solution. Further details of these products can be found on the various pages of this website