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Acids and Bases SL

Basic Definitions / Prior Knowledge

Acids ionise in water to make H+ ions.

HCl(aq)  H+(aq) + Cl-(aq)

Bases ionise in water to make OH- ions.

NaOH(s)  Na+(aq) + OH-(aq)

Acids have a pH <7, and alkalis have a pH >7

Acids and bases neutralise each other.

H+(aq) + OH-(aq)  H2O(l)

8.1 Theories of Acids and Bases

Brønsted-Lowry Theory

Brønsted-Lowry theory defines acids as proton (H+ ion) donors and bases as proton

For a compound to act as a Brønsted-Lowry acid, it must have a hydrogen atom in

it, which it is capable or losing while remaining fairly stable. A Brønsted-Lowry base
must be capable of accepting a hydrogen ion.

e.g in the reaction:

HCl + NH3  NH4+ + Cl-

An H+ ion is transferred from the HCl to the NH3, so HCl is the acid and NH3 is the

Some compounds such as water may act as both an acid and a base.
(e.g. H2O  OH- or H3O+)

Acid base reactions always involve an acid-base conjugate pairs. The conjugate
base always has one less H atom that the acid.

e.g. NH3 + H2O  NH4+ + OH-

base acid conjugate acid conjugate base

e.g. H2O + H-  H2 + OH-

acid base conjugate acid conjugate base
Question: Write out the two conjugate acid/base pairs for these reactions

a. HNO3 + H2O  H3O+ + NO3-

b. NH4+ + OH-  NH3 + H2O

c. NH3 + HBr  Br - + NH4+

d. H2SO4 + HNO3  HSO4- + H2NO3+

e. CH3COOH + HClO4  CH3COOH2+ + ClO4-

Lewis Theory

A Lewis acid is defined as a species which accepts an electron pair to form a

dative/coordinate covalent bond. A Lewis base is a species which donates an
electron pair to form such a bond. A dative covalent bond is formed when both
electrons come from one species and none from the other.

e.g in BF4-, Al2Cl6, [Cu(H2O)6]2+

Lewis theory is more advanced than Brønsted-Lowry theory because it can be
extended to include non-aqueous systems.

8.2 Properties of acids and bases

The term "acid" refers to a group of compounds whose chemical properties are
similar. Some common acids are HCl, CH3COOH, H2SO4, HNO3.

• They dissolve in water to give a solution with pH less than 7

• They react with bases to give a salt and water
• They give distinctive colours when in contact with indicators

The term "base" refers to a group of compounds whose chemical properties are
similar. Some common bases are NaOH, NH3.

• They dissolve in water to give a solution with pH more than 7.

• They react with acids to give a salt and water
• They give distinctive colours when in contact with indicators

There are several types of compounds which all come under the general heading of
Base example formula Solubility in water
Metal hydroxides Sodium hydroxide NaOH very soluble
Metal oxides Calcium oxide CaO reacts with water
Metal carbonates MgCO3 insoluble
Metal hydrogen Sodium hydrogen
NaHCO3 soluble
carbonates carbonate
Metal sulphites
Sodium sulphite Na2SO3 soluble
(sulphate (IV))
Ammonia solution Ammonia (aq) NH3(aq) very soluble

An alkali is a soluble base.

Indicators are compounds that change colour depending on whether they're in

acidic or basic conditions

Indicator Colour in Acid Colour in Base

Methyl Orange Red Yellow
Bromophenol Blue Yellow Blue
Methyl Red Red Yellow
Bromothymol Blue Yellow Blue
Phenolphthalein Colourless Red

Each one changes colour at a different pH, and so there will be situations where one
is useful and others are not.

Reactions of acids

acid + metal hydroxide  salt + water

acid + metal oxide  salt + water
e.g. HCl + NaOH  H2O + NaCl

acid + metal  salt + hydrogen

e.g. 2HCl + Mg  MgCl2 + H2
(not all metals react with acids; some are unreactive such as copper, silver, gold)
The hydrogen produced in the reaction of acids with metal will produce a 'pop'
sound if a match is held to it.

acid + carbonate  salt + water + carbon dioxide

e.g. 2HCl + CaCO3  CaCl2 + H2O + CO2
The CO2 from the acid-carbonate reaction will turn limewater a milky white when
bubbled through it.
All of the above reactions are noticeably exothermic, however, the reaction
between acids and hydrogencarbonates is endothermic.

8.3 Strong and Weak Acids and Bases

Strong and weak acids are defined by their ease of losing (or donating) a proton.
A strong acid or base, when placed in water, will almost fully ionise/dissociate

straight away, producing H+ / H3O+ or OH- ions.

HCl, H2SO4, HNO3 are strong acids.
NaOH, KOH, etc. are strong bases.
Ba(OH)2 is a strong base.

e.g. HCl (aq) + H2O (l)  H3O+ (aq) + Cl- (aq)

HCl (aq)  H+ (aq) + Cl- (aq)

e.g. NaOH (aq)  Na+ (aq) + OH- (aq)

A weak acid or base, however, will only partially dissociate into ions, leaving a high
percentage of unreacted molecules in the solution. An equilibrium is established:

e.g. CH3COOH (aq) + H2O (l) ⇌ CH3COO- (aq) + H3O+ (aq)

e.g. H2CO3 (aq) + H2O (l) ⇌ HCO3 -

(aq) + H3O +

e.g. NH3 (aq) + H2O (l) ⇌ NH4+ (aq) + OH- (aq)

e.g. CH3CH2NH2 (aq) + H2O (l) ⇌ CH3CH2NH3+ (aq) + OH- (aq)

“Concentration” should not be confused with “strength”. Concentration is measured

in mol dm-3, but strength is a measure of the extent of ionisation of an acid.
Therefore [H+ (aq) ] (or [H3O+ (aq) ]) is much higher in a strong acid than in an
equimolar solution of a weak acid.

However, the same amount of a base is needed to neutralise a weak acid and a
strong acid. Titration is not a good method of distinguishing between a strong and
weak acid/base because the same volume will react.

Any solution's ability to conduct electricity is conditioned by the concentration of

ions it contains. A strong acid or base has more ions than a weak one, and so it's
solution will be a better electrical conductor than a weak acid.


The strength of an acid or base can be measured with Universal Indicator or a pH


Rate of Reaction

The rate of hydrogen production with metals or CO2 with CaCO3 will reveal the
strength of an acid.

8.4 The pH Scale

pH values normally range from 0 to 14

(7 is the neutral value of pure water at 25OC and 1 atm)

Lower pH values are acidic, higher values are basic.

pH can be measured with a pH meter, or with pH paper (paper containing a mixture
of indicators to cause a continuous colour change).

Universal indicator solution is often used to measure pH, and has characteristic
colours at different pH values.
pH is a measure of the strength of an acid or base, and also of the concentration of
that acid / base

Relationship between pH and acid concentration

PH is actually its related to the concentration of H+ or H3O+ ions in a solution. A

change of 1 in the pH scale represents a 10 times change in the concentration of a
solution of an acid or base, because pH a logarhithmic scale.

pH = - log10 [H+]
If [H+] = 1.000 mol dm-3 , pH = 0
If [H+] = 0.100 mol dm-3 , pH = 1
If [H+] = 0.010 mol dm-3 , pH = 2
If [H+] = 0.001 mol dm-3 , pH = 3