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Silver Nitrate has a chemical formula of AgNO3. Silver Nitrate is an inorganic compound of salt containing Silver. Silver is dissolved in Nitric Acid to produce Silver Nitrate. Silver Nitrate is readily soluble and it is possible to dissolve approximately 250 gms of Silver Nitrate in 100 mls of water at 20 degrees Centigrade.
Silver Nitrate is used to quantify Chloride in a product. This is done by taking some Silver Nitrate solution which is then mixed with some Chloride solution. Using Volhard’s titration method, it is possible to measure the amount of Chloride by observing the colour change and measuring the precipitate in the solution.
One of the most obvious Hazards of Silver Nitrate is that if it comes into contact with the skin, it will turn the skin black. Silver Nitrate must be stored away from organic compounds. Silver Nitrate is classified as an Oxidant and is Toxic and Corrosive. Whilst short-term contact with skin produces blackening or staining of the skin, prolonged exposure to skin can cause burns whilst contact with the eyes will cause severe eye damage and may result in blindness.
Silver Nitrate also causes destruction of mucous membranes so Silver Nitrate fumes, vapours or dust should never be inhaled.Silver Nitrate has a wide range of uses. One of the most common uses is for its mirroring effects. If Silver Nitrate is put onto the back of glass, then that glass becomes a mirror. Silver Nitrate is also widely used in photographyas it is extremely light-sensitive.
Silver salts have antiseptic properties. Until antibiotics were discovered, very dilute solutions of Silver Nitrate used to be put into the eyes of newborn babies born to mothers who were infected with gonorrhoea, as it is possible for this infection to transfer from mother to infant. This crude method of eye protection did reduce the incident of blindness and eye infections in new born babies but incorrect dosage could cause blindness so Silver Nitrate had to be administered carefully.
Silver Nitrate can be used to clean oysters and crabs after harvesting from the sea. Silver Nitrate can be used to disinfect water in large scale systems such as those found in hospitals and hotels. Silver Nitrate is used to recycle water on space missions. Silver Nitrate is also used to coat catheters to prevent the spread of infection.
The ancient name for Silver Nitrate was ‘Lunar Caustic’ because early alchemists called the metal Silver‘,'Llunar’ after the silvery moon. ‘Lunar Caustic’ was first discovered by Albertus Magnus in the Middle Ages when he noted that Nitric Acid could be used to separate Gold and Silver by dissolving the Silver. Albertus Magnus also noticed that the solution of Silver Nitrate he had created could blacken skin.
Albertus Magnus was a Dominican Friar and Bishop, born in the early 1200’s. He was a scientist and was later sainted for his work in encouraging the harmonious coexistence of science and religion. In addition to his scientific studies, Albertus Magnus studied and had a wide knowledge and understanding of theology, botany, geography, astonomy, chemistry, zoology and astrology. He became a renowned alchemist in the Middle Ages and wrote many volumes including ‘Metals and Materials’, ‘The Secrets of Chemistry’ and ‘The Origin of Metals’.
He is credited with the discovery of Arsenic and experimented with photo-sensitive chemicals such as Silver Nitrate. Legend has it that Albertus Magnus discovered the Philosopher’s Stone, although this is not substantiated. Silver Nitrate was known for many years as ‘Nitric Acid Silver’.
For further information on other apsects of Silver Nitrate including Silver Nitrate Manufacture, Silver Nitrate Labelling and Transporting Silver Nitrate, please refer to the relevant pages of this website.
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