Instructables

Make Nitric acid - The Complete Guide

video Make Nitric acid - The Complete Guide
We show 3 ways to make nitric acid based on two different chemical approaches both of which can be done using easily accessible materials.

Warning: The procedures in this video produce large quantities of toxic gases and deal with highly corrosive acids. All work must be performed in a fume hood with proper safety equipment. And all apparatus must be glass to withstand the acids.

Chemically, nitric acid is made by bubbling nitrogen dioxide into water. So the objective in this approach is to generate nitrogen dioxide. This can be done by reacting hydrochloric acid, a nitrate salt and copper. Around 80grams of sodium nitrate, over 30 grams of copper and 100mL of hydrochloric acid are the quantities needed. The exact amount is not critical. For useable concentrations, the amount of water being converted should be small, around 20-50mL.

Any source of nitrate is usable including potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate and even nitrate-based fertilizers. You can use our previous video on testing for nitrates if you want to determine if yours can be used. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5M3rUqaEYs

The tricky part now is leading the gas into water. Two approaches are shown in the video. In the first approach three containers, such as jars are place inside each other to force the gas to go into the water. This is very inefficient but is very simple to do.

The better approach is to lead the gas out of the generator through a tube and into a chilled container of water.

The water that is converted into nitric acid can be replaced with hydrogen peroxide for better yield.

The chemical waste that is generated contains the valuable copper used before and recovering it is worthwhile due to todays high copper prices. This is simply done by putting in enough aluminum metal that it reacts with all the acids and copper in solution to create a slurry of copper. This can be filtered to obtain a residue of copper. it is highly contaminated but can still be used to make more nitric acid.

Finally, the last way of making pure nitric acid is to react concentrated sulfuric acid and a pure nitrate salt (NOT fertilizer) and heat it in a glass distillation apparatus to distill over the pure nitric acid. Stochiometric quantities of both reagents are recommended for maximum yield.

We get our glassware from chemglass or VWR

If you like our video, please check our others at http://www.youtube.com/nurdrage
1-40 of 65Next »
guds7772 months ago

Do you have to distill the hydrochloric acid and saltpeter solution or is it enough to just heat the solution up and collect the brown liquid as a nitric acid.

guds777 guds7772 months ago

If you have rubber glove to seal the boiling flask and you get the all the vapors back in the flask.

rvelma6 months ago

Thanks for the very detailed and precise information. I get what it is that you are trying to accomplish: remove the industrial dependency we have on our access to chems we can make at home. At least that is one obvious intent here and I so do appreciate it. It seems that some Chemists (not all) but some do tend to try and alienate those folks like me, who scratch their heads first glance at the Periodic Table. Why those Chemists do not realize that this is overkill is beyond me!!!!lol

Ok if a person has sodium nitrate, metabasulfite and hydrochloric acid can one make nitric acid? or do they need sulfuric in order to make it? Sorry if this is an ignorant question. The only way to remove ignorance is to learn your lesson!!!!LOL

E_MAN1 year ago
What is the equation for this?
garpigeon2 years ago
How can I purify the nitric acid produced in the third step? By this I mean extract the NOx radicals dissolved in the acid. I read something about urea somewhere but it didn't go into any detail.
I found out how to do this if anyone was wondering, if you apply a vacuum to the nitric acid of 27 kPa for about 15 mins it will remove the dissolved NOx gasses in the nitric acid, leaving you with almost pure white fuming nitric acid. This only applies to the acid made in the third method.
ilieva2 years ago
I was engraving and etching different metal plates (steal, copper, alloys) with concentrated white vinegar - it works on almost any metal except GOLD and SILVER. Off-course it is slow etching / dissolving but it works. Just a thought to consider.

regards: Victoria
I just discovered http://www.sciencemadness.org/ and it's "Energetic Materials" section, where you can find TONS of interesting chemistry.

There is also a very interesting "The Los Alamos Technical Reports Collection" section.
~Bob~
NurdRage (author)  ShutterBugger2 years ago
I know the site, they don't like videos so i stopped posting there.

As for the energetic materials, i tend to stay away from that since i want to show the public the other 99% of chemistry that doesn't involve explosives :)
thats true nice thinking
Krimm2 years ago
I found this while surfing Hydrogen generators and HCl acid vs sulfuric acid. I thought I was a genius, but damn, you are clearly the Uber-nerd. That thing about generating Hydrogen Gas. you cold capture this and burn it, at least for the one hour that the copper was uh... what ever...
What temperature should the oil bath be?
BornOnFire2 years ago
Last check, Nitric Acid was available online for $30.00 per liter. Might be not only a cheaper solution for some folks but also a SAFER one. especially for those who do not have a fume hood handy. Just sayin......
NurdRage (author)  BornOnFire2 years ago
The objective here is not to make nitric acid cheaply, the objective is to explore the science.
Not trying to be a downer. I was just stating that to perhaps give people perspective. Especially for people like me who would probably burn the house down if attempted at home. I actually admire your project and love the science as well. Nicely done!
NurdRage (author)  BornOnFire2 years ago
True :)
lemonie5 years ago
Oooh, this might be nice but it's all wrong (in principle). Nitric acid is made from ammonia, and nitrates are made from that, so you're going backwards here... Is there anyway of burning ammonia in the lab? L
NurdRage (author)  lemonie5 years ago
All wrong? so I'm not making nitric acid? The point is not to make nitric acid on an industrial scale. The point is to enable an individual without a massive platinum-rhodium catalyst to make it themselves. Electric heating is also going "backwards": a power plant uses a powerful thermal reaction, such as coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear and then drives a generator to make electricity which is sent to your house. Your electric "furnace" or stove converts that back into heat for home use. Sounds backwards, but this is still done for many homes due to convenience and safety issues. Its more convenient to make nitric acid by converting commercial nitrates than to reduce nitrogen into ammonia and then oxidize ammonia into nitric acid. Sorry if this violates scientific principles. Reducing nitrogen on an industrial scale is done by the Haber process where nitrogen is reacted with hydrogen under high pressure and temperature over a catalyst. Oxidation of ammonia is done by the Ostwald process using a platinum-rhodium catalyst. Both methods are entirely beyond the individual due to extreme costs.
My thinking was along the lines of: nitrate & nitric acid equilibrate, so if you add hydrochloric acid to nitrate you're done in that step. But more than that, if you've got the fume hood, proper safety equipment and all apparatus you've got a bottle of nitric acid in your lab anyway (and you have I know). It's nice to see but isn't really practical. I've seen US army handbooks on improvised munitions explain how to concentrate (car) battery-acid, produce nitric, make nitrating mixture, improvise explosives etc - I do get it. I'm just being picky on a point of principle, nothing more than that - I like this stuff! L
Jaycub lemonie5 years ago
"...if you add hydrochloric acid to nitrate you're done in that step." Does this mean that I could just mix kno3 with muriatic acid and it would be nitric acid even without the bubbling step?
lemonie Jaycub5 years ago
Yes. But that wouldn't give you concentrated nitric acid.

L
Jaycub lemonie5 years ago
If I boiled the water out of the muriatic acid and mixed concentrated hydrochloric acid with the kno3 would the nitric acid be stronger? Then could I distill it to make it even stronger? My bubbling experiment didn't work very well.
lemonie Jaycub5 years ago
Theoretically yes, but these things equilibrate and stuff. What do you want nitric acid for anyway? L
Jaycub lemonie5 years ago
There are a lot of uses for it, mostly explosives.
NurdRage (author)  Jaycub5 years ago
I do not condone or assist in the making of explosives or weapons.
Jaycub NurdRage5 years ago
Not for weapons, just for fun.
NurdRage (author)  Jaycub5 years ago
Creating deadly improvised explosive devices that have killed and maimed for FUN?
Jaycub NurdRage5 years ago
I'm not a terrorist!!! They only kill or maime if you use them wrong. I just really like fireworks.
NurdRage (author)  Jaycub5 years ago
Your various errors in the understanding of chemistry means that inevitably you will make a costly mistake. You're already using the chemistry "wrong" it's painfully obvious that you do not really understand what you are doing. If you don't understand then you cannot reasonably make a judgment of how to do something right. The power of science over things like games is that it's real, and accomplishes real things. Unfortunately it also causes real damage, real injury, and real death. I'm not trying to be mean. I appreciate your curiosity in science. But if you die that's one less potential scientist for the world. Almost any other science i'll help with. But the problem with explosives is that if something goes wrong, you don't have time to run.
Jaycub NurdRage5 years ago
I'm not planning on making anything much bigger than a few ounces, so the wors that could realy happen with the precautions I take is a fire or an injured hand. What specificaly am I getting wrong?
in most states any explosive over 1.4 gram in mass is illegal without permit. Making and then storing ANY AMOUNT of explosive without a license is illegal in ALL states!

This, is the reaction I got after making and using copper(i)acetylide
Mabey your technically right but I've read that The BATF will "look the other way" if your just making flash powder or something for recreation.
Jaycub NurdRage5 years ago
It also might make you feel better to know that I am not only making explosives. I will also be experimenting with rockets, and mabey to extract pure gold from dirt.
Agreed.   These people are going to hurt themselves or somebody else. 
lemonie Jaycub5 years ago
Often with sulphuric (concentrated) so why not use that? L
Jaycub lemonie5 years ago
My first experiment will be nitrocellulose, then urea nitrate. And anyway I need more supplies before I can make sulfuric acid.
lemonie Jaycub5 years ago
Nitric acid will happily hydrolyse cellulose if it's too wet, but you might be able to find some celluloid somewhere (wikipedia it for uses as a material)

L
NurdRage (author)  lemonie5 years ago
alright then. :) But you'd be amazed, i've seen people build labs out of their garages with with very sophisticated equipment. All improvised ofcourse, but very functional. Proper glassware can also be bought online and off auction sites. So its very much within the means of an individual... with lots of cash... to build a functional lab. Getting chemicals though may run afoul of regulatory agencies. Nitric acid requires special shipping instructions and ordering a small quantity is quite difficult. It's easier for me (as an individual) to buy $1000 worth of glassware than it is to get $4 of nitric acid. But yeah.... the number of people with a functional lab who are also weirdly unable to get nitric acid can probably be counted on one hand :P Ah well. Still makes for a great video. :) And the last method i describe in the video is the proper distillation method for nitric acid. Done by early chemists before the ostwald process made it moot. Still fun stuff. I don't personally use the first two methods. afterall like you said; i have nitric acid by the bottle-load. But i do occasionally use the last method to make fuming nitric acid since i can make what i need in a night rather than wait a week for shipping.
Don't forget barns in that list of places build impromptu labs...Not that I'd know about that.
It's all fun stuff. I once purified methanesulfonic acid by a similar-ish process: convert to sodium salt, dry, add conc. sulfuric, distil. Dammed hygroscopic stuff, and I ultimately used it in TFA as a solvent! L
1-40 of 65Next »