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Nitric acid (HNO3) is a highly corrosive strong mineral acid.

The pure compound is colourless, but older samples are yellowish

in colour due to the accumulation of oxides of nitrogen

Commercially available nitric acid having concentration of 68%

HNO3, while the solution containing more than 86% HNO3, is
referred to as fuming nitric acid

Depending on the amount of nitrogen dioxide present, fuming nitric

acid is further characterized as white fuming nitric acid or red
fuming nitric acid, at concentrations above 95%.
Nitric acid is manufactured by three methods.

a) From Chile saltpetre or nitrate

b) Arc process or Birkeland and eyde process

c) Ostwald's process or Ammonia oxidation process

b) Arc process or Birkeland and eyde process

Raw materials

Basis: 1000kg Nitric acid (98% yield)

Air = 198kg

Water = 145kg
N2 + O2 2NO H = + 43.2 kcals
2NO + O2 2NO2 H = - 26.92 kcals
4NO2 + 2H2O + O2 4HNO3
Air freed from CO2 and moisture is passed through electric arc chamber
having two copper electrodes which are continuously circulated by cold
water and are connected with AC dynamo.

A powerful electromagnet placed at right angles to the electrodes spreads

the arc in the form of a disc.

The chamber is also provided with inside suction pumps for rapid
circulation of air across the flame through holes of refractory fire work.

Nitrogen and oxygen of air combines at 2000oC temperature to form nitric


The hot exit gases (1000oC) leaving the chamber is passed through tube
fire boiler for steam generation.
The gases are allowed to pass through oxidation chambers made of iron
and lined inside with acid proof stone. Here, nitric oxide is further
oxidizing to nitrogen peroxide in presence of air.

The exit gases from oxidation towers are passed through series of
absorption tower filled with broken quartz through which cold water or
dilute nitric acid is continuously sprayed from top.

The gases which enter from the base of 1st tower are leave at the top.
Continuous counter current flow of gases in each tower is maintained by
centrifugal fan.

The 3rd tower is fed with cold water and the dilute nitric acid is collected
at the base is re-circulated to the top of the preceding tower. 50% HNO3 is
obtained at the base of 1st tower.
The gases leaving the last absorption tower contains traces of
nitrogen oxides. The gases are allowed to pass through two wooden
towers which are sprayed down by dilute solution of soda ash.

The solution at the base of sodium carbonate tower is evaporated to

collect crystal of sodium nitrate.