Sulfuric Acid (alternative spelling sulphuric acid), also known as oil of vitriol, is a mineral acid composed of the elements sulfur, oxygen and hydrogen, with molecular formula H2SO4. It is a colorless, odorless, and viscous liquid that is soluble in water and is synthesized in reactions that are highly exothermic.
Its corrosiveness can be mainly ascribed to its strong acidic nature, and, if at a high concentration, its dehydrating and oxidizing properties. It is also hygroscopic, readily absorbing water vapor from the air. Upon contact, sulfuric acid can cause severe chemical burns and even secondary thermal burns; it is very dangerous even at lower concentrations.
Sulfuric acid is a very important commodity chemical, and a nation’s sulfuric acid production is a good indicator of its industrial strength. It is widely produced with different methods, such as contact process, wet sulfuric acid process, lead chamber process and some other methods.
Sulfuric acid is also a key substance in the chemical industry. It is most commonly used in fertilizer manufacture, but is also important in mineral processing, oil refining, wastewater processing, and chemical synthesis. It has a wide range of end applications including in domestic acidic drain cleaners, as an electrolyte in lead-acid batteries, in dehydrating a compound, and in various cleaning agents.