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Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) is commonly used for protein precipitation but the wash waste needs to be neutralized prior to disposal. What exactly is required to effectively neutralize TCA waste? Do I just add caustic?

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You might want to add a bit here to establish the biological relevance, as it is now this is a pure chemistry question. –  Mad Scientist Apr 11 '12 at 8:25

2 Answers 2

A neutralization reaction occurs between Brönsted acids and bases to form a salt.

In this case, you have to add a Brönsted base to neutralize your acid. If the final pH is important, you should work out the exact quantity of base to add. Otherwise, just use litmus paper to check the pH of your solution, and add base until it's neutral.

EDIT

In view of the other answer proposed, I want to stress the following:

Do NOT dispose of your solution in the sink/sewer. Leave it in its plastic bin until a lab technician takes it to the furnace.

If the base you use is sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), there will be bubbling, caused by the decomposition of carbonic acid (H2CO3) into water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2). You've successfully neutralized the TCA once there's no bubbling upon addition of NaHCO3.

It is indeed best to proceed slowly while adding your base.

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up vote -2 down vote accepted

I've been fortunate to find a protocol hidden away in my lab archives.

  • The acid waste can be accumulated for 10 days before it needs to be neutralized. The waste should be kept in a carboy in a fume hood.
  • 50 mL 50% w/v Sodium Bicarbonate slurry should be added per liter of TCA waste. During neutralization fumes will be generated which may include chlorine gas.
  • When the pH reaches 6-8, dispose the waste into the sewer.
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I know what the structure of TCA is, which is exactly why I'm asking you how you think Cl2 will be generated? –  CHM Apr 10 '12 at 23:51
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From the MSDS for TCA, it states to neutralize with sodium bicarbonate so as to prevent Cl2 gas formation (like with neutralization with HCl). –  leonardo Apr 15 '12 at 13:50

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