Molecule Advent Day 8: Sulphuric Acid


Trickle down from parliament,

To your classroom,”

Jonnie Jenkins explores the use of Sulfuric (alt spelling: Sulphuric) Acid and why understanding molecules is important for making environmental, political decisions.

Sulfuric acid is important for a huge number of industrial processes including manufacturing fertilisers, mineral processing, chemical synthesis and making car batteries.

Sulphuric Acid and Acid rain

Sulfuric acid also causes environmental problems as it is a major contributor of acid rain. Sulphur dioxide formed during the burning of oil and coal under goes a set of reactions in the atmosphere  forming sulfuric acid.  Since the 1979 international treaties in the European Union have dramatically reduced sulfur dioxide pollution from power stations.

Chemical properties

Concentrated sulfuric acid has a very powerful dehydrating property, removing water (H2O) from other compounds including sugar and other carbohydrates and producing carbon, heat and steam. This happens because the hydration of sulfuric acid is so thermodynamically favorable and the affinity of it for water is strong, for this reason sulfuric acid is known as an excellent dehydrating agent (which means it removes water).  Below are some snapshots from a common experiments showing the dehydration of sucrose (a sugar) into carbon.

sulphuric acid


You can see this happening in the following gif