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A brown solid, it is used in Chromium plating, copper stripping and aluminium anodizing (to both decorate and provide corrosion protection), chromate photography and the production of hexavalent chromium compounds. It also has some use as a wood preservative and is an oxidizing agent in organic synthesis and the manufacture of basic magnesite refractories. It is a potent irritant and corrosive to skin, eyes and lungs and may cause contact dermatitis. Chronic industrial exposure has been associated with liver damage and possibly lung cancer.
Chromium(VI) oxide and its salts are powerful oxidizing agents and, like other hexavalent chromium salts, are toxic by inhalation. Inhalation may lead to pulmonary fibrosis and ulceration of the lungs. Long-term occupational exposure to chromium(VI) oxide has been related to lung cancer.
Isolation and purification of chromium(VI) oxide from solution is difficult, as it readily decomposes upon melting. It is prepared industrially by the reaction of sodium dichromate with sulfuric acid, which can be carried out either with solid sodium or with solutions or suspensions of both the reactants. The resulting aqueous solution can be separated quantitatively from the crystalline product by precipitation with hydrochloric acid and evaporation of the resulting solution.
Chromium trioxide is an explosive, and it reacts violently with a variety of organic materials including most alcohols. It is also a strong oxidizing agent and will ignite many organic molecules such as acetone on contact. When mixed with hexamethylphosphoramide and stirred, it forms a complex useful for oxidizing alcohols to carbonyl derivatives.