There are numerous uses for acids. Acids are often used to remove rust and other corrosion from metals in a process known as pickling. They may be used as an electrolyte in a wet cell battery, such as sulfuric acid in a car battery.
Strong acids, sulfuric acid in particular, are widely used in mineral processing. For example, phosphate minerals react with sulfuric acid to produce phosphoric acid for the production of phosphate fertilizers, and zinc is produced by dissolving zinc oxide into sulfuric acid, purifying the solution and electrowinning.
In the chemical industry, acids react in neutralization reactions to produce salts. For example, nitric acid reacts with ammonia to produce ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer. Additionally, carboxylic acids can be esterified with alcohols, to produce esters.
Acids are used as additives to drinks and foods, as they alter their taste and serve as preservatives. Phosphoric acid, for example, is a component of cola drinks. Acetic acid is used in day to day life as vinegar. Carbonic acid is an important part of some cola drinks and soda. Citric acid is used as a preservative in sauces and pickles.
Tartaric acid is an important component of some commonly used foods like unripened mangoes and tamarind. Natural fruits and vegetables also contain acids. Citric acid is present in oranges, lemon and other citrus fruits. Oxalic acid is present in tomatoes, spinach, and especially in carambola and rhubarb; rhubarb leaves and unripe carambolas are toxic because of high concentrations of oxalic acid.
Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) is an essential vitamin required in our body and is present in such foods as amla, lemon, citrus fruits, and guava.
Certain acids are used as drugs. Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) is used as a pain killer and for bringing down fevers.
Acids play very important roles in the human body. The hydrochloric acid present in our stomach aids in digestion by breaking down large and complex food molecules. Amino acids are required for synthesis of proteins required for growth and repair of our body tissues. Fatty acids are also required for growth and repair of body tissues. Nucleic acids are important for the manufacturing of DNA, RNA and transmission of characters to offspring through genes. Carbonic acid is important for maintenance of pH equilibrium in the body.
Acids are used as catalysts in industrial and organic chemistry; for example, sulfuric acid is used in very large quantities in the alkylation process to produce gasoline. Strong acids, such as sulfuric, phosphoric and hydrochloric acids also effect dehydration and condensation reactions. In biochemistry, many enzymes employ acid catalysis.