Here is a list of common questions and answers about the pH swing process.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for information purposeses only. The procedures outlined are simply notes of work performed in the lab and are not intended as instructions for others to follow.

Q: How do you evaporate the acid without burning the crystals?

Use the lowest setting on your hotplate. You must evaporate acids outside using a cheap portable stove burner since the acid will eat away the metal of the stove. You can buy these stoves at Cynmar.com or at your local Sears or hardware store if you live in the USA. Once the acid gets down to only a quarter inch of liquid (regardless of the width of the beaker) then you need to take it off the stove and let the residual heat do the rest of the evaporation work. If you have a tiny bit of acid still remaining, don't worry about it. It's better to have a little acid to deal with than to have scorched gold crystals you have to start all over with. But the more acid remaining, the harder it will be to flip the pH to alkaline when doing the pH Swing process.
Q: What can I use instead of Aqua Regia to dissolve the gold?

A:  The Philosophical Mercury itself will dissolve gold, but it will take a lot more work of repeated distillations. Hence the reason the gold is first dissolved with acid. 
If you live in an area where obtaining chemicals is hard, then you do have some alternatives. The hydrochloric acid sold at hardware stores in the USA is food grade (but that doesn't mean drink it pure!) because when it's used in pools, it can accidentally get ingested. And it's only around $7 for two gallon size bottles. The nitric acid is what's expensive because you have to order it online no matter where you live. The shipping usually costs as much as the acid. You can use sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate crystals instead, which are sold as Stump Remover in some hardware stores and KNO3 can be found in fertilizers.


But there is an even better alternative -- hydrogen peroxide. This can only be purchased as a 3% solution at the pharmacy or drug store. You can freeze it and the water will freeze, but the peroxide won't. But this only works until the solution is 62% peroxide, and after that, the water won't freeze first and the peroxide will intsead. You will get about 20ml of peroxide from a 500ml of the 3% solution. If you freeze out 470ml of the water, you will have a 50% peroxide solution which is the highest concentration you should be messing with.  If it's foorzen again, most likely the peroxide will freeze since it's so close to the 62% concentration. Read up about peroxide saftely if you intend to go above a 70% concentration. Even a tiny bit of organic material present in the container can oxidize and cause the enitre mass of peroxide to explode. This is why I don't recommend anything above 50% concentration.


Be careful with concentrated peroxide because it's extremely dangerous. Don't let it touch your skin. You can now put your gold in the hydrochloric acid, and then add a few drops of this peroxide. Wait for the reaction to start. It will be an exothermic reaction and generates it's own heat so you won't need to warm it up yourself. The fumes of stong peroxide solution can self ignite with very little heat. And if you add too much peroxide too fast, the heat will become so intense it will ignite the peroxide, causing an explosion. It's safest to just use the 3% peroxide dirrectly from the bottle and not try and concentrate it. The saying goes "peroxides kill chemists". For instance, if concentrated peroxide falls on a flammable material like cloth, it will evaporate the water first, and then spotaneously ignite the cloth. When dropped on leather it iginites instantly because of the metal used to treat the leather. The fumes from peroxide above 70% can ignite and then cause the entire bottle to explode. During the reactions, if the temp. gets above 150oF, it will explode. Peroxide is therefor a far more dangerous chemical to work with than Nitric acid, and is a far more powerful oxidizer. Yet ironically, it's easier to obtain and far less expensive.

Q: What if I can't find hydrochloric acid either?
If you can't find hydrochloric acid, you can make it by mixing salt with clay and heating it in a retort until the fumes go over into the reciever flask where they need to be bubbled through water.  I don't recommend you try this until you do more research (do the reasearch, don't email me and ask more questions). But you can also use vinegar and bleach instead. You freeze the vinegar and the water will freeze before the vinegar. Just like with the peroxide, you can concentrate this chemcial the same way. Now with your strong acetic acid and some extra strength bleach (make sure it's sodium hypochlorite) you can then add the peroxide slowly and dissolve the gold.
Q: What strength acid should be used?
A: The acids are sold in various strengths, which are shown as percentages. The hydrochloric acid you need will be 30% strength, which is the widely availabe standard of Muriatic pool acid. The Nitric acid you need will be 70% stength, which is also the most common. You can find 40% Nitric acid for a lower cost and it's easier to obtain. In this case, you would need to evaporate water from your hydrochloric acid to concentrate the acid. Then you can adjust your measurements accordingly. You can't evaporate the Nitric acid to concentrate it since it will evaporate with the water.


 Q: What if the gold hydroxide precipitant won't dissolve in hydrochloric acid?

A:  You try and remove as much water as you can from the precipitant. If you dry the precipitant into a powder, you run the risk of the clusters combining, which is the opposite of what you want. So it's best to keep it wet, however this can weaken the hydrochloric acid. If your precipitant doesn't dissolve, then try heating the acid to about 200F. If it still won't dissolve, then let it cool off, then add a few drops of 3% peroxide (this assumes you are working with 3 grams of gold). In a few hours you should see the precipitant turns white and fluffy. Add a few more drops of peroxide, and wait. All of the fluffy cotton-like precipitant should then be dissolved.

 Q: What kind of water should be used in Alchemy?

A: It's important to use distilled water because it's deionized by the distillation process. It should also be brought to a priest and blessed to become Holy Water. And if you don't believe in God, then you shouldn't be doing Alchemy because you are wasting your time.


"Because the very elixir that pours a more glorious life into the frame, so sharpens the senses that those larvae of the air become to thee audible and apparent"
Edward Bulwer (Lord Lytton) a high grade initiate of the Hermetic Lodge at Alexandria
"...and I behold the glory of our future life with my eyes and rejoice over it."
The Cosmopolite, Alexander Setonious Scotus

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