Naturally, when we hear the word “acid, “, fear creeps into our minds. Perhaps this is because, right from the youngster’s phase to the adult phase, we’ve learned that acid is a dangerous chemical, powerful enough to penetrate and burn our skin. In this article, we will inspect some types of acids, find out if acid is flammable or not, and discuss every other fact you need to know about acids.
What Is An Acid?
Typically, chemistry terms like “corrosive”, “sour” or “pungent” are traceable to acids. Scientists define acid as any chemical substance that dissolves in water to give a hydronium ion. Acid can refer to a substance that donates a proton or accepts a pair of non-bonding electrons.
Acids have a pH range of 0 to 6 and they have a wide application in almost all spheres of life. Even though acids are toxic, they are still in high demand in many manufacturing industries. And the good news is that, if you’re careful enough with acids, you won’t have to sustain severe burns while working with them. Aside from being an indispensable substance in the laboratory, acids can also preserve packaged foods.
Moreso, acids are important components of batteries, fertilizers, and some devices we use daily. Some acids are strong. e.g., hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, sulphuric acid, etc. While some are weak. eg, ethanoic acid, carbonic acid, and many more.
Plus, battery acids are highly flammable. Here, the big question sets in: are all acids flammable as we all assume? Let’s discover!
Is Acid Flammable?
There are different acids. Some acids are entirely flammable, while some have inferior flammable properties. However, just like most flammable chemicals, all acids will catch fire readily when it comes in contact with an ignition source.
Acids can also ignite when it reacts with metal or combines with other combustible substances.
Certain acids produce blaze and heat when they react vigorously with metals (reducing agents). Why is this so? It’s quite simple.
When some acids react with metals, hydrogen gas (a flammable and explosive gas) is evolved. Thus, when hydrogen reacts with water, it generates heat and becomes flammable. Acids that behave this way include formic acid, sulphuric acid, butanoic acid, citric acid, nitric acid and many more.
That said, some groups of acids also cause fire and become extremely hazardous when they react with combustible liquids like halogens, hydrogen peroxide, sodium peroxide, ammonium nitrate, etc. Acids that fall in this group include chromic acid, adipic acid, picric acid, and many others.
Furthermore, some acids such as pyroligneous acid and ethanoic acid are wholly flammable and can attract fire directly.
Application Of Some Acids In Our Daily Life
Isn’t it intriguing when a substance is both a boon and a bane? Well, you can consider acid as an example of such a substance. Either consciously or unconsciously, acids are what we use in our everyday activities.
Ranging from the HCL acid in the stomach to the sulphuric acids in car batteries, acids are useful. However, not all acids are used in our daily lives. Let’s look at a handful of acids with broad applications below:
- Citric Acid
Citric acid is the acid present in citrus fruits like oranges, pineapples, lemons, etc. When these fruits are consumed, the citric acid in them enhances the body’s immune system by supplying it with nutrients.
Citric acid can be used as an acidifier or artificial flavorings in some manufactured foods. Citric acid can also be used as a cleansing agent for fabrics. Citric acid does not catch flames hastily unless it is exposed to a lofty temperature that causes it to burn.
- Sulphuric Acid.
Sulphuric acid becomes flammable when it reacts with metals. This acid is used in the manufacture of batteries, detergents, fertilizers, synthetic fiber, paints, etc. Sulphuric acid can also be used in the production of alum or acids with lower boiling points like hydrochloric acid.
In steel industries, sulphuric acid is used to extract oxide impurities from iron and steel. Note that sulphuric acid is one of the most toxic acids. So ensure it doesn’t come in contact with your skin.
- Hydrochloric Acid (HCL)
Here’s one of the most popular acids so far. Hydrochloric acid (HCL) or muriatic acid is a strong acid found in the gastric juices of our stomach. This acid breaks down some food particles in our stomach.
Plus, hydrochloric acid is used in pharmaceutical industries for preparing drugs. This acid can also manufacture various cleansing agents and detergents.
- Tartaric Acid.
Tartaric acid is an essential acid in the food manufacturing industry. This acid is one of the base ingredients in baking soda. Tartaric is used as flavorings or additives in preparing confectionery, soft drinks, etc.
Plus, tartaric acids are only flammable at extreme temperatures of about 471°F.
- READ MORE: Why are farts flammable?
Can HCL Ignite In The Presence Of Water?
No, hydrochloric acid can not catch flames in the presence of water. This is because the acid dissolves readily in water. Hence, HCL will not ignite when combined with water under normal conditions.
What Happens When You Inhale An HCL Acid?
Generally, it is not advisable to breathe in acids. However, if you mistakenly inhale hydrochloric acid, seek medical attention instantly.
When you breathe in HCL acid in low concentrations, it can trigger a runny rose, persistent coughs, tears, or sneezing. If inhaled in large doses, hydrochloric acid can cause chest pain and trouble breathing. This might cause death within a few minutes if care is not taken.
Are Organic Acids Flammable?
Organic acids are highly flammable acids. They have a flash point of about 1000°F to 1400°F. Even in closed containers, organic acids can react vigorously and generate heat. Therefore it is safe to store organic acids in separate vented cabinets and non-metallic containers.
Can Acid Melt Diamonds?
Since acids are corrosive chemicals and diamonds are strong materials, it is natural to assume that acid can melt diamonds. But this is not true. Let us not forget the popular saying “only a diamond can cut a diamond.”
Acids can damage diamonds, but they can never dissolve diamonds. This is because no known acid is powerful enough to disintegrate the carbon lattice that makes up a diamond crystal. However, strong acids like hydrochloric acid and hydrofluoric acid can damage a diamond slightly.
Safety Precautions To Observe While Handling Acid
If you don’t handle them with the precautions, acids can cause burns when it splashes on your skin. In the right conditions, acids also instigate a fire outbreak. But if you manage acids the proper way, then you’ll have to worry less.
Down here are some effective safety precautions to observe while handling any type of acid.
- Acid storage or shelves must be well-ventilated to reduce the heating of the acids.
- In the laboratory, make sure you wear covered clothes, gloves, and goggles to avoid skin or eye contact with acids.
- Use dilute forms of acids only for any activity you want to carry out. You can easily dilute acids by pouring acids in water and not the other way round to avoid acid splatters on your skin.
- Neutralize all acids with a base to kill their flammability nature.
- Keep all acids away from sources of naked fire or sparks.
- Store acids in containers free from reactive metals, gas compounds, or oxidizing agents.
How To Clean Up Acid Spills: Let’s Talk HCL.
When an acid is spilled, it needs to be wiped off with immediate effect. This is because acid spills will easily react with flammable liquids or metals to cause an explosion. And since HCL is one of the most used chemicals, we’ll look at how to clean up its spills.
First, a spilled hydrochloric acid should be sprinkled with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Baking soda will start forming bubbles once it comes in contact with the acid. Once these bubbles stop, pour some water on the mixture and sweep it off or wipe it dry.
Another good way to clean up an HCL acid spilled or other acids is by using a “spill kit”. Spill kit contains alkaline agents that can easily neutralize the acids and it is mostly used in laboratories. With a spill kit around, you don’t need to seek the service of a baking soda.
Most acids are flammable, but not all. Also, acids are vital chemicals we use in everyday life. And if handled with care, acids will not hurt you.
This article reveals all you need to know about acids. Some acid users are fond of asking which acid is the most dangerous. In our research, we discovered that “fluoroantimonic acid” is the most toxic acid for man.
Meanwhile, this acid is not a regular acid you will find out there. Fluoroantimonic acid is way stronger and riskier to handle than sulphuric acid. The acid can not be stored in ordinary glass containers unless the glass is lined with Teflon. You can visit here to learn more about strong acids.