Courses
Courses for Kids
Free study material
Offline Centres
More
Store Icon
Store

Contact Process

ffImage
Last updated date: 29th May 2024
Total views: 74.7k
Views today: 1.74k
hightlight icon
highlight icon
highlight icon
share icon
copy icon

What is the Contact Process?

The contact process is one of the most widely used methods to manufacture sulphuric acid. Peregrine Phillips, a British merchant, invented the contact process and patented it in 1831. It is not only the economical process to manufacture sulphuric acid, but also produces sulphur trioxide and oleum. Here is an in-depth explanation of the contact process.


Sulphuric Acid (H
2SO4)

It is said that the amount of sulphuric acid produced in a country is directly proportional to the industrial growth of that country. Sulphuric acid is an essential raw material for almost everything that is industrially made and is commonly used in fertilizer manufacturing, oil refining, mineral processing, wastewater processing, domestic acidic drain cleaners, and electrolytes in lead-acid batteries, as a dehydrating agent, etc.

In brief, sulphuric acid is one of the strong mineral acids and has a density of 1.83 g/cm3. The chemical formula of sulphuric acid is H2SO4 and is characterized by its strong dehydrating and oxidizing nature. It is transparent and gives a pungent smell. When contacted with water it completely gets dissolved and releases heat. It is corrosive to metals and other organic matters like tissue, wood, etc. 


Properties of Sulphuric Acid

The properties of Sulphuric Acid are listed below,

  • Chemical formula: H2SO4

  • Molar mass: 98.079 g/mol

  • Appearance: Clear, colourless liquid

  • Density: 1.8302 g/cm3

  • Melting point and boiling point: 50.560 F and 6390F

  • Solubility in water: Exothermic, miscible

  • Viscosity: 26.7 cP


Manufacturing of Sulphuric Acid by Contact Process

Generally, sulphuric acid can be manufactured in several ways and varies in the effort, cost, and purity of the sulphuric acid that is produced. Among all of these, the most common process is the contact process. The manufacturing of sulphuric acid by contact process is done using a four-step process, They are 

  • Extraction of sulphur.

  • Preparation of sulphur dioxide.

  • Conversion of sulphur dioxide to sulphur trioxide.

  • Conversion of sulphur trioxide to sulphuric acid.


Extraction of Sulphur

For the production of sulphur dioxide gas, pure sulphur is required. Sulphur can be extracted using various sources, among these the recovery from natural gas and oil is most important. To obtain sulphur, the organic or mineral parts get removed.

Apart from the extraction of pure sulphur, sulphur dioxide can also be extracted using certain ways. One among them is metal refining. In soil, many metal ores occur as sulphides, they get roasted to obtain their respective oxide and sulphur dioxide.

For example, in the extraction process of lead: 

  • 2PbS + 3O2 ⟶ 2PbO + 2SO2

Similarly, sulphur dioxide can be obtained from the metallurgy of copper, nickel, zinc, etc. 


Preparation of Sulphur Dioxide

By burning pure sulphur in the presence of excess air sulphur dioxide can be prepared. This results in the formation of dioxide of sulphur. 

The preparation process of sulphur dioxide is as follows:

In a stationary atomizer, the molten sulphur is pumped in, resulting in the formation of atomized sulphur. It is then applied to the hot furnace. Using a sulphuric acid dehydrator, the air is preheated, dried and is also applied to the hot furnace. At one end of the hot furnace, air and atomized molten sulphur are kept. On the other end, due to the reaction, sulphur dioxide is produced. 

  • Melting and atomization

S (solid)⟶ S (gas) on heating at 450 degree celsius

  • Production of sulphur dioxide using the hot furnace.

S(g) + O2 ⟶ SO2(g) +Δ


Conversion of Sulphur Dioxide to Sulphur Trioxide

This is an elegant step in the contact process. This step is partial because it produces corrosive sulphur trioxide and can be reversed and involves different reaction parameters to obtain maximum output. 

  • 2SO2 (g) + O2 (g) ⇌ SO3 (g) ΔH = -196 KJ mol-1

Inside a lead chamber, sulphur dioxide and oxygen are combined in a 1:1 ratio. At temperature 400 – 450 degrees Celsius the temperature is set with 1 to 2 atm. By the vanadium pentoxide catalyst, the process is catalysed.


Conversion of Sulphur Trioxide to Sulphuric Acid

Sulphuric acid can be yielded by diluting sulphur trioxide in water. This is a very dangerous method and not followed. Adding sulphur trioxide to water is highly exothermic and causes the fuming of sulphuric acid. Further dissolution of sulphur trioxide in water is prevented by the fumes.

The widely used method is to dilute the sulphur trioxide in sulphuric acid, which produces oleum.

SO3 (g) + H2SO4   H2S2O7 (1)

Oleum is then diluted in water to produce concentrated sulphuric acid.

H2S2O7 (1) + H2O (1) ⟶ 2H2SO4 (1)


Applications of Sulphuric acid

The major applications of sulphuric acid are,

  • Preparation of fertilizers ((NH)2SO4).

  • Gasoline.

  • Automobile batteries.

  • Pharmaceuticals.

  • Paper, and sugar bleaching.

  • Water treatment.

  • Sulfonation agents.

  • Cellulose fibers.

  • Steel manufacturing.

  • Colouring agents.

  • Amino and intermediates.

  • Regeneration and ion-exchange resins.

FAQs on Contact Process

1. Why is the contact process called the Contact Process?

During the formation of SO3, a huge amount of heat evolves, so adding a high temperature increases the rate of reaction. This helps in quickening the forward reaction so that the hot gas, i.e., SO2 comes in contact with the catalyst bed. That’s why the contact process is called the contact process.

2. Why is the contact process preferred over the Lead-chamber Process?

Sulfur dioxide is a very valuable chemical compound obtained by the contact process. The advantage of this process is that it has replaced the traditional lead chamber. 

So, you can obtain Oleum and Sulfur trioxide besides the desired concentration of H2SO4.

The contact process is more economical as compared to the lead-chamber.

3. What happens when concentrated H2SO4 is added to CaF2?

When concentrated H2SO4 is added to CaF2, the reaction occurs in the following manner:

CaF2                +          H2SO4              →         HF            +       CaSO4

Calcium Fluoride   Sulfuric acid            Hydrogen Fluoride     Calcium Sulfate

So, the products are HF and CaSO4.

4. What is the meaning of Oleum?

Oleum is a Latin name, which means oil or fuming sulfuric acid. It is a term specifically used for pyrosulfuric acid.

5. How is sulphuric acid manufactured by the contact process?

Generally, sulphuric acid can be manufactured in several ways and each of them varies in different aspects such as the effort, cost, and purity of the sulphuric acid that is produced. Among all of these, the most common process is the contact process. The manufacturing of sulphuric acid by contact process is done using a four-step process, They are 

Extraction of sulphur.

Preparation of sulphur dioxide.

Conversion of sulphur dioxide to sulphur trioxide.

Conversion of sulphur trioxide to sulphuric acid.

6. What is Sulphuric Acid and its characteristics?

Sulphuric acid is an essential raw material for almost everything that is industrially made and is commonly used in fertilizer manufacturing, oil refining, mineral processing, wastewater processing, domestic acidic drain cleaners, and electrolytes in lead-acid batteries, as a dehydrating agent, etc.

In brief, sulphuric acid is one of the strong mineral acids and has a density of 1.83 g/cm3. The chemical formula of sulphuric acid is H2SO4 and is characterized by its strong dehydrating and oxidizing nature. It is transparent and gives a pungent smell. When contacted with water it completely gets dissolved and releases heat. It is corrosive to metals and other organic matters like tissue, wood, etc. 

7. Explain the process of extraction of sulphur?

For the production of sulphur dioxide gas, pure sulphur is required. Sulphur can be extracted using various sources, among these the recovery from natural gas and oil is most important. To obtain sulphur, the organic or mineral parts get removed.

Apart from the extraction of pure sulphur, sulphur dioxide can also be extracted using certain ways. One among them is metal refining. In soil, many metal ores occur as sulphides, they get roasted to obtain their respective oxide and sulphur dioxide.

For example, in the extraction process of lead: 

  • 2PbS + 3O2 → 2PbO + 2SO2

Similarly, sulphur dioxide can be obtained from the metallurgy of copper, nickel, zinc, etc. 


8. How is Sulphur Dioxide prepared?

By burning pure sulphur in the presence of excess air sulphur dioxide can be prepared. This results in the formation of dioxide of sulphur. 

The preparation process of sulphur dioxide is as follows:

In a stationary atomizer, the molten sulphur is pumped in, resulting in the formation of atomized sulphur. It is then applied to the hot furnace. Using a sulphuric acid dehydrator, the air is preheated, dried and is also applied to the hot furnace. At one end of the hot furnace, air and atomized molten sulphur are kept. On the other end, due to the reaction, sulphur dioxide is produced. 

  • Melting and atomization

S (solid)⟶ S (gas) on heating at 450 degree celsius

  • Production of sulphur dioxide using the hot furnace.

S(g) + O2 → SO2(g) + Δ

9. How does sulphur trioxide convert into sulphuric acid?

Sulphuric acid can be yielded by diluting sulphur trioxide in water. This is a very dangerous method and not followed. Adding sulphur trioxide to water is highly exothermic and causes the fuming of sulphuric acid. Further dissolution of sulphur trioxide in water is prevented by the fumes.

The widely used method is to dilute the sulphur trioxide in sulphuric acid, which produces oleum.

SO3 (g) + H2SO4 → H2S2O7 (1)

Oleum is then diluted in water to produce concentrated sulphuric acid.

H2S2O7 (1) + H2O (1) → 2H2SO4 (1)