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While reading about redox reactions, every time I found that $\ce{H2SO4}$ is used for creating an acidic medium. My question is - can I use nitric acid to create an acidic medium?

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    $\begingroup$ One reason why nitric acid isn't often used is because it is also a rather strong oxidising agent. That leads to undesired reactions $\endgroup$ Oct 1, 2015 at 16:16

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Yes, you can.

However, nitric acid is an oxidizer, so it can interfere in some cases. If a strong reducer (like magnesium) is involved, nitric acid may act as an oxidizer even in diluted solutions. Obiously, it acts as an oxidizer in concentrated solutions, producing rather nasty nitrogen oxides, and if used without prior knowledge, it may produce unstable explosives.

For this reason, one generally use hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid. Mind you, in case oxidation is not a problem, nitric acid may be used with no problems. Another reason to use sulfuric acid is that it is dirt cheap. It is the cheapest alternative.

Still, in concentrated solutions sulfuric acid does show oxidating properties, so in some cases sulfuric acid is not suitable either. Unfortunately, there is no common and reasonable alternative in the case, except significanlty weaker phosphoric acid.

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  • $\begingroup$ If magnesium is involved, any acid will definitely act as an oxidizer even in diluted solutions. $\endgroup$ Oct 1, 2015 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ @IvanNeretin chuckle Most acids will symply produce hydrogen though, not an unholy mixture of various toxic products. $\endgroup$
    – permeakra
    Oct 1, 2015 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ That's true, $\ce{HNO3}$ is quite special. $\endgroup$ Oct 1, 2015 at 17:44

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