Nitric Acid

A Highly Corrosive Mineral Acid with a Range of Important Uses

Nitric acid is a strongly acidic, corrosive liquid that is produced commercially by the oxidation of ammonia and subsequent reaction of the oxidation products with water. Pure nitric acid is colorless, but its characteristic yellow-brown color is due to dissolved nitrogen dioxide in many concentrated solutions.

Uses of nitric acid vary by market and industry. Its main application is in fertilizers, where it is neutralized with ammonia to create ammonium nitrate. Other main application areas include the production of explosives, precursors to nylon in the textile industry, and the creation of specialty organic nitrogen compounds.

While nitric acid is used in the production of fertilizers, plastics, dyes, and explosives, it is also a core component in the production of:

  • Metal nitrates
  • Inorganic nitrate salts
  • Various organic intermediates (most which are consumed in synthetic fibers and plastics)

Nitric acid is also used as an oxidizer in rocket fuels, a cleaning agent for silicon wafers in electronics, and—in very low concentrations—in woodworking to artificially age certain types of wood.