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Chemicals and Solvents

Chemicals and Solvents

Top 10 Uses for Nitric Acid

What is Nitric Acid?

Nitric acid is a conjugate acid of a nitrate. The nitrogen atom is bonded to both a hydroxy group and two oxygen atoms, notated as HNO3. It has a molecular weight of 63.013 g/mol, is very soluble in water, is a strong oxidizer, and is a good conductor of electricity.

Nitric acid can have a color ranging from a light yellow to a darker brown. Its fumes are characterized by red coloration. The fumes are highly toxic with an acrid, choking odor. The liquid form is corrosive to tissue, metals and even some plastics. Be sure to use caution when handling nitric acid and wear proper PPE.

Nitric Acid’s Chemical Properties 

  • Chemical formula: HNO3
  • Molar mass: 63.012 g·mol−1
  • Density: 1.51 g cm−3, 1.41 g cm−3 [68% w/w]
  • Melting point: −42 °C (−44 °F; 231 K)
  • Boiling point: 83 °C (181 °F; 356 K) 68% solution boils at 121 °C (250 °F; 394 K)
  • Appearance: Colorless, yellow or red fuming liquid
  • Odor: acrid, suffocating
  • Solubility in water: Completely miscible
  • Magnetic susceptibility (χ): −1.99×10−5 cm3/mol
GHS pictograms GHS03: Oxidizing GHS05: Corrosive
GHS Signal word Danger

Nitric acid has a strong presence throughout multiple industries and processes. Patents are being developed regularly with new uses for nitric acid. Here’s a guide to the current top uses of nitric acid:

Top 10 Uses of Nitric Acid:

1. Fertilizers

The primary industrial use of nitric acid is for the production of fertilizer. When combined with ammonia, nitric acid makes a great fertilizer as ammonium nitrate. Another manufactured fertilizer is calcium nitrate. These fertilizers are used on farms throughout the country.

2. Explosives

Nitric acid is used to create many different types of explosives like nitroglycerin and trinitroglycerin (TNT). These are military grade and used for national defense.

3. Adhesive

Nitric acid is a common component of an adhesive that is used in food packaging and paperboard.

4. Medicinal

In its pure form, with its caustic nature, nitric acid can be used to remove warts and boils. If it is diluted it can be used to treat indigestion.

5. Purifying Metals

Nitric acid can be used to purify and clean noble metals like platinum, gold and silver. It forms aqua regia when combined with hydrochloric acid, which can even dissolve gold and platinum. Noble metals are usually purified by jewelers.

6. Dye Intermediate

When nitric acid is processed into calcium ammonium nitrate, manufacturers are able to use it to process a number of commercial dyes.

7. Engraving

When nitric acid is combined with alcohol it can be used to etch designs on various metals like copper, bronze and brass. These are usually used in home décor.

8. Drug Detection

Nitric acid is able to be utilized in a colorimetric test to detect the difference between heroin and morphine. It is also important in spot testing that can identify LSD.

9. Furniture Coating

Nitric acid is a major component in furniture varnish. When a colored pigment is added to it, it is then often used as a lacquer. It can even give pine and maple wood the artificial appearance of being aged.

10. Laboratory Use

Nitric acid is a critical chemical for laboratory operations. It is a pH buffer, cleaning agent, and a preservative for water samples requiring metal analysis.

And More!

Nitric is such a versatile substance that listing the top 10 doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface on its multi-industry usage. It also is used as

  • a component of liquid rocket fuel
  • an important ingredient for manufacturing plastics
  • a cleaning product in food processing facilities

How to Know Which Concentration of Nitric Acid is Right for You?

When shopping for nitric acid, you will find that it is offered in a variety of different percentages. But what do those percentages mean?

Commercial grade, which is your average quality, is usually comprised of nitric acid solutions that are between 52% and 68% nitric acid and the remaining part is water.

Laboratories need a higher grade and their concentrations are generally 70% to 99% nitric acid. When a solution is made up of more than 86% nitric acid, it is then referred to as a fuming nitric acid. When it reaches concentrations over 98% it can be broken down into two separate classifications; white fuming nitric acid or red fuming nitric acid.

Note: If using nitric acid in a laboratory, it will corrode a metal pump. Make sure to use a pump made of plastic, as it can handle much higher concentrations of nitric acid. Contact LabProInc for help selecting appropriate accessories for your nitric acid usage.

Nitric Acid 70%

At this concentration, nitric acid it is considered to be technical grade. Nitric acid 70% is a good oxidizer that is used for the cleaning of gold and silver jewelry. This is also used for metal etching and general cleaning.

Nitric Acid 90% Yellow Fuming

Nitric Acid 90% is also known as strong nitric acid, it is principally used a laboratory reagent, fertilizer, and material for the explosives industry.

Nitric Acid 98% Fuming

This high concentration of nitric acid is primarily used as a reagent for nitrogen, strong oxidizer and rocket fuel.

Note: These products and chemicals are meant to be used for research, industrial work, cleaning or disinfecting and should always be stored out of the reach of young children or infants. 

Where Can You Buy Nitric Acid at Different Concentrations?

Nitric acid can be purchased from a laboratory chemical supplier like Lab Pro Inc. They have the different concentrations available for purchase in varying volumes.

For over 40 years, Lab Pro Inc. has been committed to delivering the highest quality chemicals such as nitric acid, lab supplies, laboratory equipment and cleanroom PPE apparel to medical device and electronic manufacturing laboratories worldwide. To learn more, visit the biggest Lab Supply showroom in California, or contact us online or at 888-452-2776.


Nitric acid. (2020, November 16). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from

Nitric acid. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from

Synthesis gas. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from