H2SO4 is the chemical formula of Sulphuric Acid, a strong mineral acid with a wide range of uses. Sulphuric Acid is also known as Sulfuric Acid and its historical name is Vitriol. H2SO4 is soluble in water at all concentrations. It has many applications in the chemical industry, in oil refining, water treatment, fertilizer manufacture and lead-acid batteries.
Concentrated H2SO4 is usually sold at 98% grade as this is more stable than 100% Sulphuric Acid. H2SO4 is available in many other concentrations such as 10% Sulphuric Acid, 20% Sulphuric Acid and Sulphuric Acid for Milk Testing. Pure Sulphuric Acid is viscous and clear, appearing a little like oil which is where its ancient name originates 'Oil of Vitriol'.
H2SO4 has an exothermic reaction when it comes into contact with water. This means that it is a substance which reacts violently with water. When diluting concentrated Sulphuric Acid, carefully and slowly add the Acid to water; never add water to acid.
H2SO4 is one of the most widely-used and widely-available chemicals; an indication of a nation's wealth is very often determined by the amount of H2SO4 it produces. H2SO4 is known as a commodity chemical. Over 60% of the world production of H2SO4 is used in the manufacture of phosphate fertilizers. However, steel-making and iron industries use vast quantities of H2SO4 to remove rust and scale from rolled sheets of steel destined, in particular, for the automotive and white goods industries.
In the chemical industry, H2SO4 is used as the preferred acid catalyst in the manufacturing process to produce nylon. It is also used in refineries and in the manufacture of dyestuffs. Lead-acid type batteries require H2SO4 as a 'top up'.
H2SO4 is a particularly hazardous chemical substance, not only due to its Corrosive properties, but also because of its exothermic properties when it comes into contact with water. H2SO4 burns are potentially more serious than those suffered from other strong acids as H2SO4 dehydrates skin and tissue and causes serious burns.
Although H2SO4 is a stable substance, its highly exothermic reaction enhances its ability to act as an oxidizing agent. Substances to be avoided include water, organic materials, strong reducing agents, combustible material, basis and common metals. H2SO4 reacts violently and rapidly with many metals and generates Hydrogen which is classified as Flammable and an explosion hazard.
H2SO4 is extremely Corrosive and highly Toxic. It is harmful by inhalation, ingestion and through skin contact. Ingestion of H2SO4 may be fatal. Skin contact can lead to severe and extensive burns. Chronic exposure to H2SO4 may result in cancer and permanent lung damage. Contact with the eyes can lead to permanent eye damage and corneal damage and can result in blindness.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should always be worn when handling or working with H2SO4. This should include protective clothing, safety shoes or boots, approved eye protection, face mask, respirator and appropriate gloves. Always read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) as supplied with the product BEFORE working with this material.