Also called hydrogen sulfate, sulfuric acid (sulphuric acid) is a strong, colorless, corrosive liquid that can burn or chemically destroy a substance upon contact. When an object is exposed to sulfuric acid, it gets dehydrated and reduced to a mass free of water. For example, sulfuric acid dehydrates sugar and leaves behind a black color substance called carbon. Similar effects are also likely with cellulose, skin, animal and plant matter, etc. Sulfuric acid is also an oxidizing agent. When introduced to water, the acid completely ionizes and forms hydrogen sulfate and hydronium ions.
Historically called the oil of vitriol, the acid’s chemical formula indicates the presence of a sulphur atom, two hydrogen atoms, and four oxygen atoms. The acid is soluble in water and can acquire a yellowish tinge, at times. Like nitric acid, sulfuric acid’s acidic property can corrode or damage substances such as living tissues, stone, and even metals. However, this corrosiveness shouldn’t lead to fire.
Making Sulfuric Acid
Sulfuric acid is made industrially by combining oxygen and sulfur oxide by the lead chamber or contact process. The lead chamber technique is an older technique and helps make most of the sulfuric acid that is used for making fertilizers. The acid produced is not the most concentrated, however. The contact technique, on the other hand, makes a more concentrated, purer acid. However, it also needs expensive catalysts and purer raw materials. Both these processes entail oxidizing and dissolving sulfur dioxide in water.
Sulfuric Acid Uses
Sulfuric acid is used in the manufacturing of pigments, fertilizers, drugs, dyes, detergents, explosives, nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid, etc. In fact, sulfuric acid has a role in the manufacturing of almost all goods manufactured. Most commonly, the acid functions as the electrolyte in lead-acid batteries. These are rechargeable batteries usually used in vehicles. This is why sulfuric acid is also called battery acid. In the petroleum industry, sulfuric acid is used to wash out gasoline impurities.