Mineral Acids: Common Inorganic Acids, their Properties, and Uses

Mineral acids are derived from inorganic compounds. They are also known as inorganic acids. One thing that is common in all mineral acids is the presence of hydrogen atoms. When a mineral acid is added into water, hydrogen ions (H+) and the conjugate base of that mineral acid are released upon dissociation. However, they are insoluble in organic solvents like benzene, carbon tetrachloride, etc.

These are the mineral acids: Hydrochloric acid (HCl), nitric acid (HNO3), sulfuric acid (H2SO4), phosphoric acid (H3PO4), boric acid (H3BO4), hydrobromic acid (HBr), hydroiodic acid (HI), hydrofluoric acid (HF) and perchloric acid (HClO4).

Hydrochloric acid (HCl)

It is also known as muriatic acid. It is a colorless solution of hydrogen and chlorine. It has a pungent smell. It is a part of gastric juice (acids) in the human or animal digestive system. The major use of hydrochloric acid is in chemical industries and laboratories.

mineral acid: hydrochloric acid

Nitric acid (HNO3)

The alternative names for nitric acid are aqua fortis (strong water) and the spirit of niter. It is very corrosive in nature. It is colorless but can be seen as yellow by decomposition in nitrogen oxides and water. It is also called fuming nitric acid when its concentration becomes more than 86% in solution.

mineral acid: nitric acid

Sulfuric acid (H2SO4)

The ancient name of sulfuric acid is the oil of vitriol. Sulfuric acid is colorless and odorless. It is miscible in liquids such as water. It does not occur naturally because it has a great affinity to the vapor phase of water. That’s why it is hygroscopic and absorbs moisture from the atmosphere.

mineral acid: sulfuric acid

Phosphoric acid (H3PO4)

Pure phosphoric acid is a colorless solid. In laboratories, it is used as an aqueous solution with an 85% concentration. It is not too strong enough as compared to other mineral acids. When it comes to contact with humans, it causes irritation to the skin and damage to the eyes.

mineral acid: phosphoric acid

Boric acid (H3BO3)

It exists in the form of crystals or powder. It is extracted from a mineral called sassolite.

Alternatively, it is known as hydrogen borate, boracic acid, and orthoboric acid. It is tribasic acid. It has many uses, such as antiseptic, insecticides, flame retardants, neutron absorbers, etc.

mineral acid: boric acid

Hydrobromic acid (HBr)

Hydrobromic acid is a strong mineral acid. It is an aqueous solution. Its distillation point is about 124.3 oC. At that point, it contains 47.6% mass of hydrobromic acid. This is about 8.77 mol per liter.

mineral acid: hydroboric acid

Hydroiodic acid (HI)

It is an aqueous solution of hydrogen and iodine. It is also called hydriodic acid. It ionizes completely in the solution. That is a reason, it is a very strong mineral acid. It produces iodine when reacts with oxygen. It can be used as a reducing agent in many reactions.

mineral acid: hydroiodic acid

Hydrofluoric acid (HF)

It is colorless, highly acidic, and corrosive in nature. It is mostly used for the production of fluorine derivatives such as fluoxetine (anti-depression drug), PTFE (Teflon), organofluorine compounds, inorganic fluorides, catalysts in oil refining, etc.

mineral acid: hydrofluric acid

Perchloric acid (HClO4)

This is a stronger mineral acid as compared to hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and nitric acid. It exists as an aqueous solution. Generally, it is a strong oxidizer under high-temperature conditions. At room temperature, it does not show any oxidizing features and is safe to use. It is used for the production of components of rocket fuel such as ammonium perchlorate.

mineral acid: perchloric acid

Properties of Mineral acids

  • They are soluble in water but insoluble in organic solvents.
  • They are very strong acids as compared to organic acids.
  • They contain hydrogen atoms.
  • They are corrosive in nature.
  • They are extracted from inorganic minerals. That’s why they are called mineral acids

Uses of Mineral acids

  • Sulfuric acid and nitric acid are used for the production of fertilizers, dyes, detergents, explosives, plastic, etc.
  • Hydrochloric acid is used to remove oxides from objects that are made from steel.
  • Mineral acids are used in the textile and leather industries.
  • They are used to remove water from organic synthesis.
  • Mineral acids are used as catalysts in esterification and cellulose hydrolysis.
  • Most of them are used as starting materials for the synthesis of chemical compounds.
  • Due to their corrosive property, mineral acids are used to remove deposits from the inner portion of the boiler. For this purpose, mostly dilute hydrochloric acid is used to prevent the boiler from corrosion.
  • Inorganic acids are used to synthesize stock chemical solutions for laboratories.

Key takeaways

List of mineral acids (inorganic acids)

Concepts Berg

What does mineral acid mean?

They are extracted from the inorganic compounds that are found in minerals. That’s why they are called mineral acids or inorganic acids.

Which acids are mineral acids?

Acids that are soluble in water but not in organic solvents.

What are the 2 types of acids?

There are only two types of acids which are organic and inorganic.

What is the difference between mineral acid and organic acid?

Mineral acids easily dissociate in the water while organic acids do not.

What are the examples of mineral acids?

Here is a list of common mineral acids

  • Hydrochloric acid (HCl)
  • Nitric acid (HNO3)
  • Sulfuric acid (H2SO4)
  • Phosphoric acid (H3PO4)
  • Boric acid (H3BO4)
  • Hydrobromic acid (HBr)
  • Hydroiodic acid (HI)
  • Hydrofluoric acid (HF)
  • Perchloric acid (HClO4)

Why do mineral acids denature proteins?

Protein can be denatured in two ways, one is the increase in optimum temperature and the second is the change of pH of the protein. Mineral acids basically change the pH of the protein. This breaks the bond linkage between the molecules of protein. As result, protein starts to denature.

How would sulfuric acid and water react?

When water is added to sulfuric acid. They react vigorously and the reaction is exothermic.

Why are acids stored in glass containers?

Acid cannot react with the glass. So they are carried in glass containers.

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