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From Wikipedia:

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Why do we need sulfuric acid in the left part of the formula? Wouldn't FeSO4 reduce nitric acid without the sulfuric acid taking part?


P.S.

I was answered that a milder form of the reduction would still take place:

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Is that right?

So we need the acid to make the reduction more advanced, all the way to N(2+) from N(5+)? How does it work?

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    $\begingroup$ Sounds about right. Now, this is essentially the same reaction, but with different consequences. If you have excess $\ce{HNO3}$, it will (sort of) bring your $\ce{NO}$ back to $\ce{NO2}$. If you don't, it won't. $\endgroup$ – Ivan Neretin Feb 27 '16 at 19:26

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