Nitric acid

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A colorless, viscous, strongly oxidizing liquid that turns yellow with age or light exposure due to the formation of nitric oxides. Nitric acid is sold in concentrations ranging from >90% (fuming) down to 36%. The commercial reagent grade of nitric acid used in most labs contains 70% nitric acid in water. Nitric acid will dissolve most Metals. It is used in the manufacture of Ammonium nitrate for fertilizer and explosives. It is also used for metallurgy, photoengraving, etching Steel, and the synthesis of Dyes and Polymers.

Synonyms and Related Terms

aqua fortis; engraver's acid; azotic acid; spirits of nitre; azotic acid; hydrogen nitrate; salpetersyre (Dan., Nor.); Salpetersäure (Deut.); ácido nítrico (Esp., Port.); ácido trioxonítrico (V) (Esp.); acide nitrique (Fr.); acido nitrico (It.); salpeterzuur (Ned.); Kwas azotowy(V) (Pol.); salpetersyra (Sven.)


  • Strong oxidizing agent.
  • Dangerous fire risk in contact with organic materials.
  • Highly toxic by inhalation, corrosive to skin.
  • ThermoFisher: SDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

Soluble in water. Decomposes in ethanol. Dissolves most metals.

Composition HNO3
CAS 7697-37-2
Melting Point -41.59 C
Density 1.504 (95%) g/ml
Molecular Weight mol. wt. = 63.0
Boiling Point 78 C (dec)

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 545
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • S.R.Trotman, E.R. Trotman, Textile Analysis, J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1932
  • Susan E. Schur, Conservation Terminology: A review of Past & Current Nomenclature of Materials, Technology and Conservation, Spring (p.34-39); Summer (p.35-38); Fall (p.25-36), 1985
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 6672
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976