News and Announcements

Nitric Acid Alert


Hazards of Nitric Acid

Two recent incidents at Illinois have reminded us about the hazards of working with nitric acid.

In the first, a waste container in an undergraduate teaching lab exploded several minutes after some wastes containing nitric acid and ethanol were added together. In the second, a waste container with nitric acid and small amounts of acetone exploded several hours after the material was added to the container. In both cases we were fortunate that no one was seriously hurt.

This short video is a reconstruction of one of the incidents. (The vigorous reaction starts at about 2:25.) Note that the reaction was run in an open vessel; imagine what would happen had the container been sealed.

DRS Recommendation

DRS recommends that if you use nitric acid, you should be very careful not to mix it with organic materials, except under very well controlled conditions. Better yet, assess your protocols to determine whether a non-oxidizing acid can meet your laboratory needs.