What are some of the sources of sulfuric acid?

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ncchemist eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sulfuric acid is a classic, strong, mineral acid with the formula H2SO4.  It is a very commonly used acid in laboratory and industrial chemical settings.  It is a diptrotic acid, meaning that it has two available acidic protons for reaction.  Sulfuric acid is commonly manufactured using the wet sulfuric acid process.  First, elemental sulfur is burned to produce sulfur dioxide.

S + O2 --> SO2

Sulfur dioxide is then oxidized with oxygen to produce sulfur trioxide.  This step usually requires a catalyst.

2SO2 + O2 --> 2SO3

Finally, the sulfur trioxide is added to water to produce sulfuric acid.

SO3 + H2O --> H2SO4

Please note that this last step is extremely exothermic and the acid will be produced as a gas.  It must be condensed into a liquid.