Nitric acid (HNO3), AKA spirit of niter, is a mineral acid with a highly corrosive nature.
The compound is initially colorless, but over time, its decomposition into oxides of nitrogen and water gives it a yellow cast. Nitric acid is commonly available as a solution of a 68% concentration in water. Concentrations of more than 86% are called fuming nitric acid.
Nitric acid has a worldwide production of about 30 million tons annually and is used in an assortment of industries, most notably for the production of fertilizers which utilizes about 75 to 80 percent of worldwide nitric acid production.
What Industries and Applications Handle Nitric Acid?
Nitric acid is widely used as an agent for nitration and oxidization. Some of the applications of nitric acid are as follows:
- In the defense industry, nitric acid is used in compounds for creating explosives and munitions.
- In the agriculture industry, ammonia is processed with nitric acid to produce ammonium nitrate for fertilizers. More than 2/3 of worldwide nitric acid production is used to produce fertilizers.
- In the aerospace industry, nitric acid is used as an oxidizer in liquid rocket fuel.
What are the Properties of Nitric Acid that will Affect the Pump you Purchase?
Figure 1: Nitric Acid Concentrations and Pump Materials
A single or collection of material/s may be rated for a higher temperature/s then the pump as a whole is capable of. It is important to contact a March representative to determine if the pump as a complete unit is suitable for the concentration and temperature of any chemical.
Nitric acid is highly corrosive and reacts with most metals. Stainless steel and aluminum can only handle very diluted concentrations of nitric acid (5 to 10%). Natural rubber and Buna also react with nitric acid.
Nitric acid is also highly reactive to the skin and can create severe chemical burns in cases of direct contact. Nitric acid will fume when in contact with oxygen and the fumes are highly toxic. Special safety precautions must be taken to protect the respiratory system, skin, eyes and teeth of persons in direct contact with this chemical compound.
What Materials Can Best handle Nitric Acid?
For very thin concentrations of nitric acid a standard, non-metallic or even metallic pump can be used. But, when pumping commercial grade nitric acid solutions, a non-metallic type of pump, particularly one built with Viton, PTFE and PVDF is recommended.
In general, when dealing with nitric acid you should use mag drive pumps, especially for large flow rates, as this type of pumps guarantees a leak-free operation due to the absence of mechanical seals in contact with the fluid.
Choosing the Right Nitric Acid Chemical Pump
In many industries where nitric acid is handled, accidental leaks will result in personnel and facility evacuation due to the corrosive and toxic nature of the chemical fumes. The resulting downtime increases costs but can be avoided by selecting the appropriate chemical pump. There are many parameters to take into account when choosing a suitable chemical pump for handling nitric acids, including, but not limited to, compound concentration, working temperatures, gravity of the chemical and the materials used in the pump itself.
Here at March Pump, we exhibit a wide range of chemical industrial pumps that cover virtually any possible requirement. For further information we encourage you to contact our friendly support team and our experts will be happy to help. Give us a call or contact us online to learn more.