Strong acids and bases can pose a significant health risk. Because of this, safe handling is a major concern, and storing a chemical in the right container is the first way to ensure safety. Acids and bases each have unique properties, which means that some containers are suitable for one acid or base but not another.
Glass is an ideal material for storing many types of chemicals, including most acids and bases. Ordinary glass is largely inert and does not react chemically with most substances, including aqueous substances like acids and bases. It is also nonporous, which means that it will not absorb chemicals, nor will glass contaminate chemicals. The major drawback of glass is the fact that it breaks easily and makes sharp, dangerous shards when broken. In addition, not all substances are safe to store in glass; hydroflouric acid is an example of a substance that should not be stored in a glass container but can be stored in polymethylpentene, polythene and Teflon.
Polymethylpentene is a type of plastic. Like glass, this material is clear and highly resistant to corrosion, which makes it suitable for storing both acids and bases of different strengths. This material is often used to make beakers and graduated cylinders, which are both used during the experimental process, but is also suitable for storage purposes.
Polythene is another type of plastic. Like polymethylpentene and glass, it is compatible with both acids and bases of different strengths and will not react to exposure with most acids and bases. This material is noted for its high impact strength, which means that it is very difficult to break. This is an ideal property in chemical storage, as breaking causes spills. This plastic is typically used to make waste bags, containers and pumps.
Teflon is best known for its slippery qualities, as most substances are unable to stick to Teflon. Teflon has another unique property in that it is resistant to many chemicals, including sulphuric acid, sodium hydroxide and nitric acid, all very strong acids or bases. For this reason, Teflon-coated containers are ideal for storing many acids and bases.
While the material that a bottle is made from varies depending on what kind of acid or base it is designed to hold, there are some features of bottles that are the same regardless of the chemical. All bottles designed to contain acids and bases should have tight-fitting caps; loose glass stoppers are not suitable for long-term storage. An exception is made for any acid or base mixture that produces gas, as gas build-up can destroy the container. In addition, a suitable container must be able to be clearly labelled.
- Tufts Universtiy School of Engineering: GaSb Cleaning Using HF/Nitric/Acetic Acid (40:18:2) and Nitric Acid/Hydrochloric Acid (1:30)
- Lenntech Water Treatment Solutions: Glass
- Invention & Technology; "Making Teflon Stick"; Anne Cooper Funderburg; 2000
- U.S. Department of Energy Berkeley Lab: Control Procedures for Acids and Bases
- PhotoObjects.net/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images