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Dec 20, 2010

Sulfuric Acid ...King of Chemicals

Laboratory hazards
The corrosive properties of sulfuric acid are accentuated by its highly exothermic reaction with water. Burns from sulfuric acid are potentially more serious than those of comparable strong acids (e.g. hydrochloric acid), as there is additional tissue damage due to dehydration and particularly secondary thermal damage due to the heat liberated by the reaction with water.
The danger is greater with more concentrated preparations of sulfuric acid, but even the normal laboratory "dilute" grade (approximately 1 M, 10%) will char paper by dehydration if left in contact for a sufficient time. Therefore, solutions equal to or stronger than 1.5 M are labeled "CORROSIVE", while solutions greater than 0.5 M but less than 1.5 M are labeled "IRRITANT". Fuming sulfuric acid (oleum) is not recommended for use in schools as it is quite hazardous.
The standard first aid treatment for acid spills on the skin is, as for other corrosive agents, irrigation with large quantities of water. Washing is continued for at least ten to fifteen minutes to cool the tissue surrounding the acid burn and to prevent secondary damage. Contaminated clothing is removed immediately and the underlying skin washed thoroughly.
Preparation of the diluted acid can also be dangerous due to the heat released in the dilution process. The concentrated acid is always added to water and not the other way round, to take advantage of the relatively high heat capacity of water. Addition of water to concentrated sulfuric acid leads to the dispersal of a sulfuric acid aerosol or worse, an explosion. Preparation of solutions greater than 6 M (35%) in concentration is most dangerous, as the heat produced may be sufficient to boil the diluted acid: efficient mechanical stirring and external cooling (such as an ice bath) are essential.
On a laboratory scale, sulfuric acid can be diluted by pouring concentrated acid onto crushed ice made from de-ionized water. The ice melts in an endothermic process while dissolving the acid. The amount of heat needed to melt the ice in this process is greater than the amount of heat evolved by dissolving the acid so the solution remains cold. After all the ice has melted, further dilution can take place using water.


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