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Monoacidic base A base which can accept 1 proton per molecule of base e.g.

NaOH NaOH + H+(aq) -> Na+(aq) + H2O Di-Acidic base A base which can accept 2 protons per molecule of base e.g. Ca(OH)2 Ca(OH)2 + 2H+(aq) -> Ca++(aq) + 2 H2O Tri-Acidic base A base which can accept 3 protons per molecule of base e.g. Al(OH)3 Al(OH)3 + 3H+(aq) -> Al+++(aq) + 3H2O

A dilute acid is one that is not very concentrated. You can make an acid solution more dilute by adding water. Note that you have to be careful with the terms strong and weak; very strong acids can also be very dilute. Strong and weak characterize the acid's ability to dissociate in an aqueous solution, independent of concentration.


This page explains the terms strong and weak as applied to acids. As a part of this it defines and explains what is meant by pH, Kaand pKa. It is important that you don't confuse the words strong and weakwith the terms concentrated and dilute. As you will see below, the strength of an acid is related to the proportion of it which has reacted with water to produce ions. The concentration tells you about how much of the original acid is dissolved in the solution. It is perfectly possible to have a concentrated solution of a weak acid, or a dilute solution of a strong acid. Read on . . .

Strong acids
Explaining the term "strong acid" We are going to use the Bronsted-Lowry definition of an acid.
Note: If you don't know what the Bronsted-Lowry theory of acids is, you should read about theories of acids and baseson another page in this section. You don't need to spend time reading about Lewis acids and bases for the purposes of this present page. Use the BACK button on your browser when you are ready to return to this page.

When an acid dissolves in water, a proton (hydrogen ion) is transferred to a water molecule to produce a hydroxonium ion and a negative ion depending on what acid you are starting from. In the general case . . .

These reactions are all reversible, but in some cases, the acid is so good at giving away hydrogen ions that we can think of the reaction as being one-way. The acid is virtually 100% ionised. For example, when hydrogen chloride dissolves in water to make hydrochloric acid, so little of the reverse reaction happens that we can write:

At any one time, virtually 100% of the hydrogen chloride will have reacted to produce hydroxonium ions and chloride ions. Hydrogen chloride is described as a strong acid. A strong acid is one which is virtually 100% ionised in solution. Other common strong acids include sulphuric acid and nitric acid. You may find the equation for the ionisation written in a simplified form:

This shows the hydrogen chloride dissolved in the water splitting to give hydrogen ions in solution and chloride ions in solution. This version is often used in this work just to make things look easier. If you use it, remember that the water is actually involved, and that when you write H+(aq) what you really mean is a hydroxonium ion, H3O+.
Note: You should find out what your examiners prefer on this. You are unlikely to find this from your syllabus, but should look at recent exam papers and mark schemes. If you are doing a UK-based exam and haven't got copies of yoursyllabus and past papers, you should have! Follow this link to find out how to get hold of them.

Strong acids and pH pH is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution. Strong acids like hydrochloric acid at the sort of concentrations you normally use in the lab have a pH around 0

to 1. The lower the pH, the higher the concentration of hydrogen ions in the solution. Defining pH

Note: If you are asked to define pH in an exam, simply write down the expression in black. Never try to define it in words - it is a waste of time, and you are too likely to miss something out (like mentioning that the concentration has to -3 be in mol dm ). In the expression, above, the square brackets imply that, so you don't need to mention it.

Working out the pH of a strong acid Suppose you had to work out the pH of 0.1 mol dm 3 hydrochloric acid. All you have to do is work out the concentration of the hydrogen ions in the solution, and then use your calculator to convert it to a pH. With strong acids this is easy. Hydrochloric acid is a strong acid - virtually 100% ionised. Each mole of HCl reacts with the water to give 1 mole of hydrogen ions and 1 mole of chloride ions That means that if the concentration of the acid is 0.1 mol dm -3, then the concentration of hydrogen ions is also 0.1 mol dm-3. Use your calculator to convert this into pH. My calculator wants me to enter 0.1, and then press the "log" button. Yours might want you to do it in a different order. You need to find out! log10 [0.1] = -1

But pH = - log10 [0.1] - (-1) = 1 The pH of this acid is 1.

Note: If you want more examples to look at and to try yourself (with fully worked solutions given), you may be interested in my chemistry calculations book. This also includes the slightly more confusing problem of converting pH back into hydrogen ion concentration.

Weak acids
Explaining the term "weak acid" A weak acid is one which doesn't ionise fully when it is dissolved in water. Ethanoic acid is a typical weak acid. It reacts with water to produce hydroxonium ions and ethanoate ions, but the back reaction is more successful than the forward one. The ions react very easily to reform the acid and the water.

At any one time, only about 1% of the ethanoic acid molecules have converted into ions. The rest remain as simple ethanoic acid molecules. Most organic acids are weak. Hydrogen fluoride (dissolving in water to produce hydrofluoric acid) is a weak inorganic acid that you may come across elsewhere.
Note: If you are interested in exploring organic acids further, you will find them explained elsewhere on the site. It might be a good idea to read the rest of this page first, though. If you want to know why hydrogen fluoride is a weak acid, you can find out by following this link. But beware! The explanation is very complicated and definitely not for the faint-hearted! These pages are in completely different parts of this site. If

you follow either link, use the BACK button to return to this current page.

Comparing the strengths of weak acids The position of equilibrium of the reaction between the acid and water varies from one weak acid to another. The further to the left it lies, the weaker the acid is.

Note: If you don't understand about position of equilibriumfollow this link before you go any further. You are also going to need to know about equilibrium constants, Kc for homogeneous equilibria. There is no point in reading any more of this page unless you do! If you follow either link, use the BACK button to return to this current page.

The acid dissociation constant, Ka You can get a measure of the position of an equilibrium by writing an equilibrium constant for the reaction. The lower the value for the constant, the more the equilibrium lies to the left. The dissociation (ionisation) of an acid is an example of a homogeneous reaction. Everything is present in the same phase - in this case, in solution in water. You can therefore write a simple expression for the equilibrium constant, Kc. Here is the equilibrium again:

You might expect the equilibrium constant to be written as:

However, if you think about this carefully, there is something odd about it. At the bottom of the expression, you have a term for the concentration of the water in the solution. That's not a problem except that the number is going to be very large compared with all the other numbers. In 1 dm3 of solution, there are going to be about 55 moles of water.
Note: 1 mole of water weighs 18 g. 1 dm of solution contains approximately 1000 g of water. Divide 1000 by 18 to get approximately 55.

If you had a weak acid with a concentration of about 1 mol dm -3, and only about 1% of it reacted with the water, the number of moles of water is only going to fall by about 0.01. In other words, if the acid is weak the concentration of the water is virtually constant. In that case, there isn't a lot of point in including it in the expression as if it were a variable. Instead, a new equilibrium constant is defined which leaves it out. This new equilibrium constant is called Ka.

Note: The term for the concentration of water hasn't just been ignored. What has happened is that the first expression has been rearranged to give Kc (a constant) times the concentration of water (another constant) on the left-hand side. The product of those is then given the name Ka. You don't need to worry about this unless you really insist! All you need to do is to learn the format of the expression for Ka.

You may find the Ka expression written differently if you work from the simplified version of the equilibrium reaction:

This may be written with or without state symbols. It is actually exactly the same as the previous expression for Ka! Remember that although we often write H+ for hydrogen ions in solution, what we are actually talking about are hydroxonium ions. This second version of the Ka expression isn't as precise as the first one, but your examiners may well accept it. Find out!

To take a specific common example, the equilibrium for the dissociation of ethanoic acid is properly written as:

The Ka expression is:

If you are using the simpler version of the equilibrium . . .

. . . the Ka expression is:

Note: Because you are likely to come across both of these versions depending on where you read about Ka, you would be wise to get used to using either. For exam purposes, though, use whichever your examiners seem to prefer.

The table shows some values of Ka for some simple acids: acid hydrofluoric acid methanoic acid ethanoic acid hydrogen sulphide Ka (mol dm-3) 5.6 x 10-4 1.6 x 10-4 1.7 x 10-5 8.9 x 10-8

These are all weak acids because the values for Ka are very small. They are listed in order of decreasing acid strength - the Ka values get smaller as you go down the table. However, if you aren't very happy with numbers, that isn't immediately obvious. Because the numbers are in two parts, there is too much to think about quickly! To avoid this, the numbers are often converted into a new, easier form, called pKa.

An introduction to pKa pKa bears exactly the same relationship to Ka as pH does to the hydrogen ion concentration:

If you use your calculator on all the Ka values in the table above and convert them into pKa values, you get: acid Ka (mol dm-3) pKa

hydrofluoric acid methanoic acid ethanoic acid hydrogen sulphide

5.6 x 10-4 1.6 x 10-4 1.7 x 10-5 8.9 x 10-8

3.3 3.8 4.8 7.1

Note: Notice that unlike Ka, pKa doesn't have any units.

Notice that the weaker the acid, the larger the value of pKa. It is now easy to see the trend towards weaker acids as you go down the table. Remember this:

The lower the value for pKa, the stronger the acid. The higher the value for pKa, the weaker the acid.

Note: If you need to know about Ka and pKa, you are quite likely to need to be able to do calculations with them. You will probably need to be able to calculate the pH of a weak acid from its concentration and Ka or pKa. You may need to reverse this and calculate a value for pKa from pH and concentration. I can't help you with these calculations on this site, but they are all covered in detail in my chemistry calculations book.

Notes on Acids and Bases

General Definitions Properties Water Dissociation pH Strength of Acids & Bases Acid & Base Reactions Titrations Models of Acids

1. General Definitions:
Acid: a substance which when added to water produces hydrogen ions [H+]. Base: a substance which when added to water produces hydroxide ions [OH-].

2. Properties:
react with zinc, magnesium, or aluminum and form hydrogen (H 2(g)) react with compounds containing CO32- and form carbon dioxide and water turn litmus red taste sour (lemons contain citric acid, for example) DO NOT TASTE ACIDS IN THE LABORATORY!!

feel soapy or slippery turn litmus blue they react with most cations to precipitate hydroxides taste bitter (ever get soap in your mouth?) DO NOT TASTE BASES IN THE LABORATORY!!

3. Water dissociation: H2O(l) H+(aq) + OH-(aq)

equilibrium constant, KW = [H+][OH-] / [H2O]
Note: water is not involved in the equilibrium expression because it is a pure liquid, also, the amount of water not dissociated is so large compared to that dissociated that we consider it a constant

Value for Kw = [H+][OH-] = 1.0 x 10-14

Note: The reverse reaction, H+(aq) + OH-(aq) [H+] for pure water = 1 x 10-7 [OH-] for pure water = 1 x 10-7 H2O(l) is not equal to 1 x 10-14

Definitions of acidic, basic, and neutral solutions based on [H+]

acidic: if [H+] is greater than 1 x 10-7 M basic: if [H+] is less than1 x 10-7 M neutral: if [H+] if equal to 1 x 10-7 M

Example 1: What is the [H+] of a sample of lake water with [OH-] of 4.0 x 10-9 M? Is the lake acidic, basic, or neutral? Solution: [H+] = 1 x 10-14 / 4 x 10-9 = 2.5 x 10-6 M Therefore the lake is slightly acidic Remember: the smaller the negative exponent, the larger the number is. Therefore: acid solutions should have exponents of [H+] from 0 to -6. basic solutions will have exponents of [H+] from -8 on.

Example 2: What is the [H+] of human saliva if its [OH-] is 4 x 10-8 M? Is human saliva acidic, basic, or neutral? Solution: [H+] = 1.0 x 10-14 / 4 x 10-8 = 2.5 x 10-7 M The saliva is pretty neutral.

4. pH
relationship between [H+] and pH pH = -log10[H+] Definition of acidic, basic, and neutral solutions based on pH acidic: if pH is less than 7 basic: if pH is greater than 7 neutral: if pH is equal to 7

The [H+] can be calculated from the pH by taking the antilog of the negative pH Example 3: calculate the [OH-] of a solution of baking soda with a pH of 8.5. Solution: First calculate the [H+] if pH is 8.5, then the antilog of -8.5 is 3.2 x 10-9. Thus the [H+] is 3.2 x 10-9 M Next calculate the [OH-] 1.0 x 10-14 / 3.2 x 10-9 = 3.1 x 10-6 M Example 4: Calculate the pH of a solution of household ammonia whose [OH-] is 7.93 x 10-3 M. Solution: This time you first calculate the [H+] from the [OH-] 7.93 x 10-3 M OH- = 1.26 x 10-12 M H+ Then find the pH -log[1.26 x 10-12] = 11.9 Now you try a few by yourself. You can then check your answers using the Java applet that follows, but remember, you won't learn how to do them if you don't try by yourself first. Practice #1. What is the pH of a solution of NaOH that has a [OH-] of 3.5 x 10-3 M? Practice #2. The H+ of vinegar that has a pH of 3.2 is what? Practice #3. What is the pH of a 0.001 M HCl solution?

How can pH be determined experimentally?

By using pH paper or a pH meter

5. Strength of Acids and Bases: Acids

1. Strong Acids:
completely dissociate in water, forming H+ and an anion.

example: HN03 dissociates completely in water to form H+ and N031-. The reaction is HNO3(aq) H+(aq) + N031-(aq)

A 0.01 M solution of nitric acid contains 0.01 M of H+ and 0.01 M N03- ions and almost no HN03 molecules. The pH of the solution would be 2.0. 1. HCl 2. H2SO4 3. HNO3 4. HClO4 5. HBr 6. HI Note: when a strong acid dissociates only one H+ ion is removed. H2S04 dissociates giving H+ and HS04- ions. H2SO4 H+ + HSO41-

There are only 6 strong acids: You must learn them. The remainder of the acids therefore are considered weak acids.

A 0.01 M solution of sulfuric acid would contain 0.01 M H+ and 0.01 M HSO41(bisulfate or hydrogen sulfate ion).

2. Weak acids:
a weak acid only partially dissociates in water to give H+ and the anion for example, HF dissociates in water to give H+ and F-. It is a weak acid. with a dissociation equation that is HF(aq) H+(aq) + F-(aq)

Note the use of the double arrow with the weak acid. That is because an equilibrium exists between the dissociated ions and the undissociated molecule. In the case of a strong acid dissociating, only one arrow ( ) is required since the reaction goes virtually to completion. An equilibrium expression can be written for this system: Ka = [ H+][F-] / [HF]

Which are the weak acids? Anything that dissociates in water to produce H and is not one of the 6 strong acids. 1. Molecules containing an ionizable proton. (If the formula starts with H then it is a prime candidate for being an acid.) Also: organic acids have at least one carboxyl group, COOH, with the H being ionizable. 2. Anions that contain an ionizable proton. ( HSO41- H+ + SO42- ) 3. Cations: (transition metal cations and heavy metal cations with high charge)

also NH4+ dissociates into NH3 + H+

1. Strong Bases:
They dissociate 100% into the cation and OH- (hydroxide ion). example: NaOH(aq) Na+(aq) + OH-(aq)

a. 0.010 M NaOH solution will contain 0.010 M OH- ions (as well as 0.010 M Na+ ions) and have a pH of 12. Which are the strong bases? The hydroxides of Groups I and II. Note: the hydroxides of Group II metals produce 2 mol of OH- ions for every mole of base that dissociates. These hydroxides are not very soluble, but what amount that does dissolve completely dissociates into ions. exampIe: Ba(OH)2(aq) Ba2+(aq) + 2OH-(aq)

a. 0.000100 M Ba(OH)2 solution will be 0.000200 M in OH- ions (as well as 0.00100 M in Ba2+ ions) and will have a pH of 10.3.

2. Weak Bases:
What compounds are considered to be weak bases? 1. Most weak bases are anions of weak acids. 2. Weak bases do not furnish OH- ions by dissociation. They react with water to furnish the OH- ions. Note that like weak acids, this reaction is shown to be at equilibrium, unlike the dissociation of a strong base which is shown to go to completion. 3. When a weak base reacts with water the OH- comes from the water and the remaining H+ attaches itsef to the weak base, giving a weak acid as one of the products. You may think of it as a two-step reaction similar to the hydrolysis of water by cations to give acid solutions. examples: NH3(aq) + H2O(aq) NH4+(aq) + OH-(aq) CH3NH3+(aq) + OH-(aq)

methylamine: CH3NH2(aq) + H20(l)

acetate ion: C2H3O2-(aq) + H2O(aq) HC2H302(aq) + OH-(aq)

General reaction: weak base(aq) + H2O(aq) weak acid(aq) + OH-(aq)

Since the reaction does not go to completion relatively few OH- ions are formed.

Acid-Base Properties of Salt Solutions:

definition of a salt: an ionic compound made of a cation and an anion, other than hydroxide. the product besides water of a neutralization reaction

determining acidity or basicity of a salt solution: 1. split the salt into cation and anion 2. add OH- to the cation a. if you obtain a strong base. the cation is neutral b. if you get a weak base, the cation is acidic 3. Add H+ to the anion a. if you obtain a strong acid, the anion is neutral b. if you obtain a weak acid. the anion is basic 4. 5. 6. 7. Salt solutions are neutral if both ions are neutral Salt solutions are acidic if one ion is neutral and the other is acidic Salt solutions are basic is one of the ions is basic and the other is neutral. The acidity or basicity of a salt made of one acidic ion and one basic ion cannot be determined without further information.

Examples: determine if the following solutions are acidic, basic, or neutral Click on each one to find out the answer. KC2H3O2 Cu(NO3)2 KClO4 NaHPO4 LiHS NH4Cl

6. Acid-Base Reactions:
Strong acid + strong base: HCl + NaOH NaCl + H2O net ionic reaction: H+ + OH- H2O Strong acid + weak base:

example: write the net ionic equation for the reaction between hydrochloric acid, HCl, and aqueous ammonia, NH3. What is the pH of the resulting solution? Strong base + weak acid: example: write the net ionic equation for the reaction between citric acid (H 3C6H507) and sodium hydroxide. What is the pH of the resulting solution?

7. Titrations
1. Nomenclature: these are terms that are used when talking about titrating one substance with another. You need to learn these definitions well enough to explain them to someone else.
titration titrant indicator equivalence point end point titration cuve

2. Strong acid-strong base titration

example: titration curve pH at equivalence point species present appropriate indicators

3. Strong acid-weak base titration

example titration curve pH at end point species present appropriate indicators

4. Weak acid-strong base titrations

example: titratio n curve for the titration of vinegar with NaOH pH at end pointapproximately 8.5 species presentH2O and NaC2H3O2 appropiate indicatorphenolphthalein

Note: no matterwhat type of titration you do, at the equivalence (end) point the number of moles of H+ is equivalent to the number of moles of OH-. This applies whether you have weak or strong acids and/or bases.
Problems: l. Citric acid (C6H807) contains a mole of ionizable H+/mole of citric acid. A sample containing citric acid has a mass of 1.286 g. The sample is dissolved in 100.0 mL of water. The solution is titrated with 0.0150 M of NaOH. If 14.93 mL of the base are required to neutralize the acid. then what is the mass percent of citric acid in the sample? 2. A sample of solid calcium hydroxide is mixed with water at 30 oC and allowed to stand. A 100.0 mL sample of the solution is titrated with 59.4 mL of a 0.400 M solution of hydrobromic acid. a. What is the concentration of the calcium hydroxide solution? b. What is the solubility of the calcium hydroxide in water at 30 oC? Express your answer in grams of Ca(OH)2 / 100 mL water?

8. Three models of acids:

l. Arrhenius Model
Basis for the model--action in water

acid definition: produces H<sup+< sup=""> in water solution </sup+<>

base definition: produces OH1- in water solution

2. Bronsted-Lowry Model
Basis for the model-- proton transfer acid definition: donates a proton ( H<sup+< sup=""> ) </sup+<> base definition: accepts a proton conjugate acid definition: the acid becomes the conjugate base after it donates the proton because it can now accept it back. conjugate base definition: the base becomes the conjugate acid after it accepts the proton because it can now donate it back.

3. Lewis Model
Basis for model--electron pair transfer acid definition: accepts a pair of electrons base definition: donates a pair of electrons

Send questions, comments or suggestions to Gwen Sibert, at the Roanoke Valley Governor's School

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