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The compound hydrogen chloride has the formula HCl. At room temperature, it is a colorless gas, which forms white fumes of hydrochloric acid upon contact with atmospheric humidity. Hydrogen chloride gas and hydrochloric acid are important in technology and industry. The formula HCl is often used to refer, somewhat misleadingly, to hydrochloric acid, an aqueous solution derived from hydrogen chloride.
The resulting solution is called hydrochloric acid and is a strong acid. The acid dissociation or ionization constant, Ka, is large, which means HCl dissociates or ionizes practically completely in water. Even in the absence of water, hydrogen chloride can still act as an acid. For example, hydrogen chloride can dissolve in certain other solvents such as methanol, protonate molecules or ions, and serve as an acid-catalyst for chemical reactions where anhydrous (water-free) conditions are desired.
HCl protonating a methanol (CH3OH) molecule
Because of its acidic nature, hydrogen chloride is a corrosive gas, particularly in the presence of any moisture.
During the Industrial Revolution, demand for alkaline substances such as soda ash increased, and Nicolas Leblanc developed a new industrial-scale process for producing the soda ash. In the Leblanc process, salt was converted to soda ash, using sulfuric acid, limestone, and coal, giving hydrogen chloride as by-product. Initially, this gas was vented to air, but the Alkali Act of 1863 prohibited such release, so then soda ash producers absorbed the HCl waste gas in water, producing hydrochloric acid on an industrial scale. Later, the Hargreaves process was developed, which is similar to the Leblanc process except sulfur dioxide, water, and air are used instead of sulfuric acid in a reaction which is exothermic overall. In the early 20th century the Leblanc process was effectively replaced by the Solvay process, which did not produce HCl. However, hydrogen chloride production continued as a step in hydrochloric acid production.
Historical uses of hydrogen chloride in the 20th century include hydrochlorinations of alkynes in producing the chlorinated monomers chloroprene and vinyl chloride, which are subsequently polymerized to make polychloroprene (Neoprene) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), respectively. In the production of vinyl chloride, acetylene (C2H2) is hydrochlorinated by adding the HCl across the triple bond of the C2H2 molecule, turning the triple into a double bond, yielding vinyl chloride.
The "acetylene process", used until the 1960s for making chloroprene, starts out by joining two acetylene molecules, and then adds HCl to the joined intermediate across the triple bond to convert it to chloroprene as shown here:
Alternatively, HCl can be generated by the reaction of sulfuric acid with sodium chloride:
HCl can also be prepared by the hydrolysis of certain reactive chloride compounds such as phosphorus chlorides, thionyl chloride (SOCl2), and acyl chlorides. Adding more water would absorb the HCl gas forming hydrochloric acid. For example, cold water can be gradually dripped onto phosphorus pentachloride (PCl5) to give HCl in this reaction:
HCl can also be made using sodium bisulfate and sodium chloride: NaHSO4 + NaCl --> Na2SO4 + HCl
Hydrogen chloride usually comes in compressed gas cylinders that are either red and brown or grey with a yellow band.
2. Thames and Kosmos Chem C2000 Experiment Manual
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