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Author: Subject: Nitric Acid by Soil Electrolysis
ShadowWarrior4444
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[*] posted on 12-5-2008 at 23:20
Nitric Acid by Soil Electrolysis


A book archived in this website's library seems to have a very interesting procedure for forming nitric acid very fluidly:
http://www.sciencemadness.org/library/books/the_manufacture_...

Aside from seemingly practical methods for the formation of persulfates, permanganates, etc, it seems to have a very viable, extremely OTC, and possibly automatable process for forming nitric acid:

Nitric Acid can be separated from the alkali nitrate
present in peat by a process devised by M. A. Nodon,1 a
French engineer. The peat deposits are treated in situ
by electrolysis, and the nitric acid which is discharged at
the anodes is drained away to a collecting tank. Earthenware
pots, having a depth of approximately 8 feet and a
diameter of 16 inches, are sunk in the peat deposit and
serve as anode compartments. Each pot is packed with
coke in the centre of which is embedded a central graphite
anode, and it also contains two earthenware tubes, one for
drawing off the nitric acid solution as formed d (Fig. 8),
and the other e to supply water in order to make good
that which is carried off to the nitric acid tank.
Corresponding to each anode cell are four cast iron
cathodes KK, about 8 feet long, which are connected
as shown in Fig. 9. A continuous production of acid
takes place during electrolysis, and no harmful effect
is exerted upon the nitrifying bacteria, which continue
their work of converting nitrogenous matter into calcium
nitrate without interruption.
Stakes of tarred wood g
encase a packing of limestone c which surrounds each
earthenware anode cell.
The resistance of the peat electrolyte is approximately
3 ohms per cubic metre, and the pressure required per cell
is 10 volts. The optimum temperature at which the
bacteria convert the maximum amount of nitrogenous
matter into nitrate is 25° C , and at this temperature 2 per
cent, of the available nitrogen is converted into nitric
acid. The limestone filling which encircles each earthenware
pot serves to prevent the peat itself from becoming
acid.
On one deposit, which had an average depth of 6 feet, a
yearly output of 800 tons of nitrate was obtained at an
approximate cost of one penny per 1b.


Does anyone have experience with this method, or comments on its viability?

[Edited on 5-13-2008 by ShadowWarrior4444]




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not_important
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[*] posted on 12-5-2008 at 23:41


Peat - anaerobic, acidic, mostly vegetable matter. Not soil. Might be of interest if you live next to a peat bog.

It's a bit similar to making nitrates from farm wastes, except the mineralization is already done in the peat.
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ShadowWarrior4444
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[*] posted on 12-5-2008 at 23:56


Quote:
Originally posted by not_important
Peat - anaerobic, acidic, mostly vegetable matter. Not soil. Might be of interest if you live next to a peat bog.

It's a bit similar to making nitrates from farm wastes, except the mineralization is already done in the peat.


Would purchased peat moss be suitable? Also, I was under the impression that any particularly nitrogenous soil could be used for the production of KNO3, so I believe that it may work here as well. Perhaps a mix of nitrogenous top soil and store-bought peat with a bit of water to make one's own small scale peat bog for acid production.




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[*] posted on 13-5-2008 at 00:09


No - fresh peat has all the water and compounds from its decay. Purchased peat moss has been drained and dried. You've lost most of the combined nitrogen.

The one way peat moss would be useful is as part of a loose absorbent mixture that gets treated with manure and/or urine. Bacteria end up converting urea and organic nitrogen compounds to nitrate. Ordinary soils just don't have that much combined nitrogen in them. Messy, smelly, really only works in rural settings.
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[*] posted on 13-5-2008 at 02:59


It's interesting, certainly, but the info given is a bit deficient.

BTW, I thought I brought this up in another thread; perhaps I dreamt it.

I'm somewhat spoilt for choice---Ireland has a superfluity in the bog dept, but the process seems almost too good to be true.

Animal manure, lest we forget, was the only source of KN03 before the Chilean NaN03 deposits were discovered.

Smelly stuff, but raw peat in situ, isn't exactly odourless either; there are sulphates in it too which produce H2S and run-off from bogs is acidic (H2S04 + organics) and looks a bit like drain cleaner.

Good clean loam just might be suitable for the process.

I'm preoccupied right now, but seeing how this develops will be interesting!

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[*] posted on 13-5-2008 at 08:37


I meant the West of Ireland, incidentally---bogs in the Eastern counties were exhausted a long time ago.

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[*] posted on 13-5-2008 at 09:50


Quote:
Originally posted by Pulverulescent
KN03


I know it's subtle, but you are repeatedly making the error: it is not K-N-zero-3, it is K-N-O-3. Oxygen is spelled with the letter O, not the digit zero.

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[*] posted on 13-5-2008 at 12:25


Quote:
Originally posted by 12AX7
Quote:
Originally posted by Pulverulescent
KN03


I know it's subtle, but you are repeatedly making the error: it is not K-N-zero-3, it is K-N-O-3. Oxygen is spelled with the letter O, not the digit zero.

Tim


I make this typo as well, as the characters are directly adjacent on the keyboard, though I tend to proofread my work thoroughly before and after posting.

My idea for the production of nitric acid via this method was along the lines of purchasing some peat, submerging in water (with a properly adjusted electrolyte count), and seeding a few nitrogen fixers in it--then begin waiting, patiently.




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[*] posted on 13-5-2008 at 12:50


ShadowWarrior4444, if I'm not wrong, that way you describe will make nitrate, not nitric..at least a little nitric should form because the oxidation of nitrogen containing material by air and bacteria (nitrosomona , spirobacter,etc) will render H+ ions.. but that acidic condition would quickly self stop the process anyway if you do not add any basic thing (lime, ash (Na, K), etc)..
also, just moist somewhat the peat, dont wet or submerg it on water..You need a lot of air.. see the link below


I dont remember where I get this link, was just sitting on my favourites, since is interesting:
http://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/lecontesalt/leconte.html


[Edited on 13-5-2008 by Aqua_Fortis_100%]




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[*] posted on 13-5-2008 at 17:25


Quote:
Originally posted by Aqua_Fortis_100%
ShadowWarrior4444, if I'm not wrong, that way you describe will make nitrate, not nitric..at least a little nitric should form because the oxidation of nitrogen containing material by air and bacteria (nitrosomona , spirobacter,etc) will render H+ ions.. but that acidic condition would quickly self stop the process anyway if you do not add any basic thing (lime, ash (Na, K), etc)..
also, just moist somewhat the peat, dont wet or submerg it on water..You need a lot of air.. see the link below


I dont remember where I get this link, was just sitting on my favourites, since is interesting:
http://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/lecontesalt/leconte.html


[Edited on 13-5-2008 by Aqua_Fortis_100%]


The nitric acid would be from the process outlined in the original post. To wit: membrane electrolysis of a decomposing biomass of peat.




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[*] posted on 13-5-2008 at 17:50


Quote:
Originally posted by ShadowWarrior4444
...
My idea for the production of nitric acid via this method was along the lines of purchasing some peat, submerging in water (with a properly adjusted electrolyte count), and seeding a few nitrogen fixers in it--then begin waiting, patiently.


I.m not sure that the fixed nitrogen, or at least most of it, is coming from N2 fixers, I suspect it is from decaying organic matter and concentration of rain runoff. I believe the optimal pH range for most cyanobacteria is 6.5 to 8, maybe a bit higher.
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[*] posted on 14-5-2008 at 14:42


Sorry, ShadowWarrior4444.. I miss understood you.

It will appear promising your original idea, since HNO3 is a valuable material, even dilute.. But IMHO seems a bit hard and probably messy to do.




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[*] posted on 15-5-2008 at 16:40


I noticed that nitrifying bacteria is sold at hydroponics retailers for the purpose of reducing ammonia and nitrite concentrations in water (converting them to nitrate.) It may then be possible to seed these bacteria into an environment with the appropriate electrolyte content, then manually raise the ammonia level in the water. Extraction of the nitric acid may be done via electrolysis, possibly by moving the water out of the bacteria's environment and into a membrane cell. The bioreactor can be kept operational continually by the addition of ammonium hydroxide and water to replace the nitrates being drawn off.

Some hydroponics formulations seem to indicate that it is specially designed to 'work quickly,' which might indicate genetically engineered bacteria, or simply a synergistic combination of different bacteria.

In the original process, it seems that there is no bacteria/organic matter in the anode chamber, which raises interesting questions, specifically whether nitrate ions can pass through the earthenware pot, or whether there is some other diffusion of nitrates occurring that allows one side to be electrolyzed into the acid, and the other side to return the calcium as its hydroxide. (I assume this is what is occurring because it states that the nitrifying bacteria are unharmed in this In Situ process, and that they are making calcium nitrate.)

It may also possible that the anode chamber is submerged under the water, and that the nitrifying bacteria are protected from escaping acid by "The limestone filling which encircles each earthenware pot serves to prevent the peat itself from becoming acid." The nitrate ions would migrate over the lip of the jar. Acid could then be drawn off from the earthenware pot continually to minimize the exposure of the lime, being replaced with fresh water.

[Edited on 5-15-2008 by ShadowWarrior4444]




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[*] posted on 15-5-2008 at 23:54


Presumably, the anode merely attracts all anions (hence the name, anion), electrode chemistry being unimportant (oxygen -- and hydrogen at the cathode -- will be produced and wasted, then). A slow, low concentration process for generating acid, but it does work, and if you have nothing better to do than dip some electrodes into a peat bog and zap it, sure, why not.

Tim




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[*] posted on 16-5-2008 at 02:26


IMHO, the entire thing is apocryphal; if it works as outlined I'll eat my hat, and I don't have a hat!

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[*] posted on 16-5-2008 at 04:24


One could easily try doing a membrane electrolysis on KNO3-solution to see if that part of the process works.

I doubt the HNO3 produced would be very concentrated, and you'd need a platinum/PbO2 anode to avoid rapid corrosion.

[Edited on 16-5-2008 by Jome]
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