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Six chemicals and their compatibility issues students should know

January 06, 2018
Incompatible Chemicals

“The contact of two chemicals is like a meeting of two girls which has only two outcomes; either friends or foes and nothing in between.” 

During your primary school, your teacher might have told you that always keep fire away from petrol or kerosene. When you studied chemistry in high school, it was taught that sodium must be kept in kerosene, not in water and the reason for the same was nothing else but their incompatibility with each other. When opposing chemicals are stored very closely in labs or any other place it may result in aggressive reactions which may lead to fire, explosion, and emission of toxic gases. It is essential to ensure that any incompatible chemicals must be stored at least 3-5 meters away from each other. There are many chemicals which should never be stored together. We have enlisted some of the most commonly used chemicals along with their ill-matched ones. Read further to know about them:

1) H2O (Water) 

They say that if 71% of the earth is engulfed with water, then find a place on the rest 29% land to store chemicals such as acetyl chloride, alkaline, alkaline earth metals, barium peroxide, carbides, chromic acid, phosphorous oxychloride, phosphorous pentachloride, phosphorous pentoxide, sulfuric acid, and sulfur trioxide. Not following the rule will end up with some serious chemical activities that you can’t control later.

2) Nitric Acid

There is a thumb rule that Nitric acid should be steered clear of any organic solvents as a huge explosion may occur. HNO3 is used in the manufacturing process of explosives and fertilizers. This acid should be handled away from the substances such as acetone, acetic acid, alcohol, chromic acid, aniline, hydrocyanic acid, and hydrogen sulfide.

3) Chlorine

The most widely and cheapest disinfectant, chlorine has played an essential role in the mid-19th century when there was an outbreak of water-borne diseases across the world. You must avoid storing chlorine with or near acetylene, benzene, butadiene, hydrogen, any petroleum gases, sodium carbide, and turpentine to avoid watching a firework in the lab.

4) Mercury

Mercury(Hg) is used in thermometer and barometer. Being a poisonous metal, it is advised to handle it with utmost care. Mercury is very infamous for forming explosive or toxic compounds with acetylene, fulminic acid, and ammonia and should be kept far away from these compounds.

5) Iodine

Iodine is one of the substances that you always consume whenever you eat any salty food. Also, in your laboratory class, your teacher might have used it while testing for the presence of starch in the potato. But from now on, you must keep your iodized salt or any substance containing Iodine away from the materials that have acetylene, ammonia, and hydrogen as it forms unstable compounds that may explode.

6) Caustic Soda

Caustic soda (Sodium hydroxide) is a versatile alkaline compound commonly used in soaps, manufacturing of pulp and paper, and also in water treatment. As it is a base, its inevitable enemy is acid. So, caustic soda should never be stored near any chemical acid in labs. Otherwise, the result you know very well.

You have just read about some of the chemicals incompatible with each other that should be kept apart. Chemistry is a fascinating subject with infinite research opportunities. While carrying out experiment, you must keep in mind the compatibility issues among the chemicals.

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