Acids Project: Define what an Acids is, define their properties

and in depth Research of Sulfuric Acid.

Elena Otoya

Colegio Bolivar

Date: May 31, 2017

Table of Content

Introduction ................................................................................................................. 3

Acids and Bases Theories ............................................................................................. 4

Amphoteric and Amphiprotic Acids ............................................................................ 7

pH and pOH ................................................................................................................. 8

Differentiating Acids .................................................................................................. 12

Sulfuric Acid .............................................................................................................. 14

Conclusion.................................................................................................................. 22

References .................................................................................................................. 23


The pH scale measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The term pH was described

by Danish biochemist Søren Peter Lauritz Sørensen in 1909, and it is the abbreviation for

“power of Hydrogen”. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. If a pH is lower than 7 it indicates

the solution is an acid. If it is above 7 it is a base. If the pH number is seven, it means that

the solution is neutral, it is not alkaline, nor acidic, just like water. Strong acids have lower

pHs than weak acids and strong bases have a higher pH than weak bases (“The P/H Scale,”

n.d.). See Figure 1.

Figure 1
Image from: _

Acids and Bases Theories

Scientist have been observing the properties of acids and bases for centuries, and an actual

definition of an acid or a base has been difficult to agree upon on. There are three main

theories of acids and bases. The first one is the Arrhenius Theory, introduced in 1887, by

Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius that states that acids are substances, which produce

hydrogen ions in solutions, and that bases are substances, which produce hydroxide ions in

solutions. Neutralization happens because hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions react to

produce water (“Theories of acids and bases,” n.d.).

This theory declares that acids are substances that dissociate in water to yield electrically

charged atoms or molecules called ions, one if which is a hydrogen ion (H+), and that bases

ionize in water to yield hydroxide ions (OH-). It is known that the hydrogen ion cannot

exist alone in water solution; rather, it exists in a combined state with a water molecule, as

the hydronium ion (H3O+). The acidic behavior of many well-known acids, and the basic

properties of well-known hydroxides are explained in terms of their ability to yield

hydrogen and hydroxide ions respectively, in solution. Furthermore, such acids and bases

may be classified as strong or weak depending on the hydrogen ion or hydroxide ion

concentration produced in solution (“Arrhenius theory,” n.d.). An easier way of looking at

this is that if the substance is an acid, then the concentration of hydrogen protons (H+) will

increase, like in the equation below, and if the substance is basic, the concentration of

hydroxide (OH-) will increase, as shown on the equation below (KhanAcademy, n.d.)

HCL (aq) H+(aq) + Cl-(aq) Acid equation

Alkaline equation
NaOH(aq) Na+(aq) + OH-(aq)

The next theory is the Brønsted-Lowry Theory, the focus is on H+ and whether a chemical

can donate or accept the mentioned H+ (“Brønsted Concept of Acids and Bases,” 2013).

Brønsted and Lowry were two scientist that found a problem with the Arrhenius definition.

They found out that there are substances that do not contain hydroxide, but will still act as a

base, for example sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). So they modified the definition saying

that acids are going to be compounds that can donate a hydrogen ion (H+), and that bases

are going to be compounds that can accept that H+ ion (KhanAcademy, n.d.).


HCl + H2O H3O+ + Cl-

HCl is going to donate a proton to water. HCl is acting like the acid and water (H2O) is

going to be acting like the base, the leftover chloride ion (Cl-), is the conjugate/ partner base

of HCl, and H3O+ is the conjugate base of H2O. An acid always has a conjugate base.

Conjugate acid base pairs differ by one H, and the acid is always the one with more H (The

Science Classroom, 2014). A Brønsted-Lowry acid is a substance that donates or releases

protons in solution. A Brønsted-Lowry base is a substance that accepts protons in solutions.

The definition of a Brønsted-Lowry acid is not a function of pH. An acid-base reaction

involves the transfer of a proton from one substance to another. A base, according to the

Brønsted-Lowry theory, does not need to have a pH greater than 7, the only requirement is

that it is able to accept protons. Water is a molecule that can act as an acid and as a base.

Substances that can act as either an acid or a base are amphoteric (FuseSchool - Global

Education, 2013).

The third theory of acids and bases is the Lewis Definition. Lewis proposed another

definition because he found substances that could be acids and not contain a hydrogen at

all. This definition states than an acid is going to accept a pair of electrons, and that a base

is going to donate a pair of electrons (The Science Classroom, 2014).


AlCl3 + Cl- AlCl4

The aluminum chloride compound accepts the extra pair of electrons from the Cl-. Because

the chloride (Cl-) has an extra pair of electrons, it is going to be the base, and the aluminum

chloride (AlCl3) is going to act as the acid (“Lewis Concept of Acids and Bases,” 2013).

Definition Acid Base

Arrhenius Yield H+ OH-

Brønsted-Lowry Donate H+ Accept H+

Lewis Accept electrons Donate electrons

Amphoteric and Amphiprotic Acids

According to (Thornley, 2016). Amphiprotic is a substance that can be a proton donor or a

proton receiver, essentially a Brønsted-Lowry acid or base is going to be amphiprotic.

Amphoteric, is a substance that can behave as either an acid or a base, and there are three

sorts of acids and bases (Arrhenius, Brønsted-Lowry and Lewis). Anything that is

amphiprotic, has also need to be amphoteric. Amphiprotic needs to de exclusively with

Brønsted-Lowry acids and bases, and amphoteric is to de with any sort of acids and bases.

Amphoprotic equation:

HSO4- + H+ H2SO4

HSO4- + OH- SO42- + H2O

The HSO4- can receive a proton, which would make it a Brønsted-Lowry base, and it could

also lose a proton, which would make it a Brønsted-Lowry acid. Since the HSO4- can gain

or lose a proton, is amphiprotic, which means that it is also amphoteric, because anything

amphiprotic is amphoteric. Not all amphoteric molecules are amphiprotic, because there are

cases, as in ZnO, were the compound can acts as a Lewis acid and accept an OH- ion but

cannot donate a H+ (Anne Helmesnstine, n.d.). Both of this substance, amphiprotic and

amphoteric, show acid and base properties. In other words, they can react as an acid or as a

base depending on the other reactants. Amphiprotic substances can donate or accept a

proton; water is the most common example. In the other hand, amphoteric substances can

behave as an acid and as a base (“Difference Between Amphiprotic and Amphoteric |

Amphiprotic vs. Amphoteric,” 2014).

pH and pOH

Water can behave as an acid and as a base. First, understand that chemically, the pH

represents the power of hydrogen in a solution, and it is mathematically defined as the

negative of the base 10 logarithm of the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution

(Green, 2013).

pH= –log [H+]

At any given moment there will be a certain number of hydrogen ions in a solution. Lets

say the concentration will be a number like 1 x 10-5 moles/ Liter. That -5 is the base 10

logarithm, take the negative of that, and get the pH= 5 (Green, 2013).

The logarithm is the exponent to which another number, called the base, must be raised to

produce the target number.

Logb x = y Log10 100 = 2
102 = 100
By = x

This has to do with water potential to act as both an acid and a base. Random changes in the

tiny electrical fields around the atoms in water occasionally cause the molecules to break

apart. Specifically a hydrogen ion or proton will break off from one molecule and attach

itself to another one, forming a hydronium ion (H3O+) and a hydroxide ion (OH-). It´s

molecules can both release and accept protons (“Khan Academy,” n.d.). This dissociation

of water is a reversible reaction, and in fact the ions always reform to water in a tiny

fraction of a second, it´s happening all them time, constantly. However, at any given instant

only a tiny number of molecules are dissociated ions. The exact number of these molecules

is well known to chemist, it´s the equilibrium constant for this reaction. Because it is such

a special reaction, it has it´s own name, the water dissociation constant, or Kw (Green,


Kw = 1.0 x 10-14

The formula for Kw is set up like any equilibrium equation constant, concentrations of

products over concentrations of reactants, all raised to the exponents based on the

coefficients of the balance reaction. There is however one difference, because the ions

represent such a small proportion of the total mass, the water itself is essentially pure. Pure

substances, because they do not have concentrations, are not included in equilibrium

calculations. So the formula of Kw becomes simply the hydronium ion concentration x the

hydroxide concentration. According to the balanced equation for the dissociation of water,

hydronium and hydroxide are formed at a 1:1 ratio, so their equilibrium concentration must

be equal. The formula for the dissociation constant 1.0 x 10-14 simplifies even further to x2 .

The equilibrium concentration of each ion is just the square root of 1.0 x 10-14. Both

concentrations equal 1.0 x 10-7 moles per liter in equilibrium. The pH is simple the negative

log of that, which is 7. Since water is neutral, 7 is the center of the pH scale (Green, 2013).

Reversible water equation:

2H20(/) H3O+(aq) + OH-(aq)


Kw = [H3O+][OH-]
Kw = [H3O+][OH-]

1.0 x 10-14 = [H3O+][OH-] 1.0 x 10-14 = x2

[H3O+] = [OH-] = √1.0 x 10-14

[H3O+] = [OH-] = 1.0 x 10-7 mol/ liter

pH= -log (1.0 x 10-7) = 7

Because pH is calculated from a negative logarithm, it turns everything backward. When a

hydrogen ion concentration goes up, the pH gets lower. Just like the pH of a substance can

be calculate by the concentration of hydronium ions, it can also be use to calculate the

concentration of hydroxide ions (OH-) by the equation:

pOH = -log [OH-]

This is easy, because Kw never changes. Although the concentrations of hydrogen and

hydroxide are only equal in pure water, or perfectly neutral solutions, the product of the

two concentrations always equals 1.0 x 10-14 in any aqueous solution (Green, 2013).

pH + pOH = 14

When the concentration of H3O+ ions is known, the formula to find the pH is:

pH = -log [H3O+]

When the OH- concentration is the one given, the formula is:

pOH = -log[OH-]

Figure 2 is a good example of what the logarithms represent and how they work.

Figure 2
Image from:

Differentiating Acids

Acids are classified as weak and strong acids. Strong acids have a pH closer to 1; this

means they have more H+ ions. When a strong acid gets into a solution it completely

dissociates (all molecules separate). On the other hand, weak acids partially dissociate

(some molecules split apart) (Sharar, 2015). Strong acids become 100% ionized when in an

aqueous solution. Some examples are HCL, HNO3, and H2SO4, and have a pH of 1. Weak

acids do not ionize completely when in water, part of the original portion of the acid

remains a molecule while being in contact with water, for example CH3CO2H, H2CO3 and

H3PO4 (“How Are Strong and Weak Acids Different | Chemistry for All | FuseSchool -

YouTube,” 2012). Strong acids conduct electricity very well because they completely

dissociates in water. They also react faster than weak acids (reaction rate is grater).

Both strong and weak acids can be concentrated or diluted. If a large quantity of hydrogen

chloride gas is dissolved in a small amount of water, it will become concentrated

hydrochloric acid. If a small quantity of hydrogen chloride gas is dissolved in a large

amount of water, it will become a diluted hydrochloric acid. It is possible to dilute a

concentrated acid by adding water to it. It is also possible to concentrate a dilute acid by

evaporating water out of it (CBSE, 2015). In conclusion, in a strong acid all of the

molecules dissociate to give hydrated hydrogen ions and anions in solution. In a weak acid,

only a portion of the molecules dissociate to give hydrated hydrogen ions and anions in

solution, so there are solvated molecules present as well as solvated ions. A concentrated

acid has a relatively large amount of solute dissolved in the solvent. A dilute acid has a

relatively smaller amount of solute dissolved in the solvent (Chemical misconceptions,


Sulfuric Acid
 Chemical formula: H2SO4
 Molar mass: 98.075 grams/ mole
 1 mole of sulfuric acid = 6.022 x 1023 formula units

Image from:
Figure 3 Science-Independent-Study

Sulfuric acid is dense, colorless, oily, corrosive liquid. It is made industrially by the

reaction of water with sulfur trioxide, which in turn is made by chemical combination of

sulfur dioxide and oxygen either by the contact process (modern industrial method of

producing sulfuric acid. Sulfur dioxide and oxygen passed over a hoy catalyst, unite to form

sulfur trioxide, which in turn combines with water to make sulfuric acid), or the chamber

process (method of producing sulfuric acid by oxidizing sulfur dioxide with moist air, using

gaseous nitrogen oxides as catalysts, the reaction taking place primarily in a series of large,

boxlike chambers of sheet) (“contact process | chemistry,” n.d.).

Creation of Sulfuric Acid by Contact Process

The contact process is a three-stage process. In the first stage, sulfur is obtained in its

elemental form, solid. It is melted, and is then combusted in oxygen. The product formed at

this stage is sulfur dioxide gas (SO2 (g)) (“Manufacturing Sulphuric Acid | Chemistry for

All | The Fuse School - YouTube,” 2015).

S (l) + O2 (g) SO2 (g)

In stage 2, sulfur dioxide is converted into sulfur trioxide. The reaction is in equilibrium,

which means that as the product is formed, the reverse reaction can also occur and it can

break down into its reactants. This reaction can be sped up to form sulfur trioxide by adding

a catalyst, vanadium oxide. This is an exothermic reaction, this means that the formation of

sulfur dioxide (the backward reaction), would be favored at higher temperatures, however

the catalyst needs a temperature over 400 degrees C for it to work. The idea is a trade off

the reaction actually takes place at 450 degrees C. The gases need to reach equilibrium,

within the very short time that they are in contact with the catalyst in the reactor, so having

an increased temperature ensures a high rate of reaction, meaning that a forward reaction is

2SO2 (g) + O2 2SO3 (g)

Finally, in stage 3, sulfur trioxide is converted into a very concentrated sulfuric acid:

SO3 (g) + H2SO4 H2S2O7 (l)

H2S2O7 (l) + H2O 2H2SO4 (l)

H2S2O7 is also known as oleum, it is very viscous and releases acidic fumes. In this stage,

water is added carefully as a mist to sulfur trioxide, this is because the reaction is very

exothermic, so mixing it with pure water will release a mist of sulfuric acid that will escape

into the air. 99.5% pure sulfuric acid is collected and is shipped off to where is needed next.

There are some acidic waste acids from stage 3, which can escape and cause local acid rain.

In tha factories in which sulfuric acid is created, the chimneys are fitted with acidic

scrubbers. These are bases, like sodium carbonate; on contact they neutralize the fumes

forming salt and water. Other ways to minimize the release of any sulfur oxides is by

recycling gases between stages 2 and 3 (“Manufacturing Sulphuric Acid | Chemistry for

All | The Fuse School - YouTube,” 2015).

Physical Properties

 Color: Colorless

 Natural state: liquid

 Melting point: 10.36 degrees Celsius

 Boiling point: 350 degrees Celsius

 Density: 1.841 g/ cm3

 Odorless

 Not flamable

(Lide, 1994)

Chemical properties and reactions

Whenever a base reacts with an acid, it forms salt and water. This reaction is known as

neutralization reaction (DeltaStep, 2015).


2NaOH + H2SO4 Na2SO4 + 2H2O

When any carbonate or bicarbonate reacts with sulfuric acid, salt, water and carbon dioxide

is produced (DeltaStep, 2015).


Na2CO3 + H2SO4 Na2SO4 + H2O + CO2

When sulfuric acid reacts with sulfite or bisulfite, salt, water and sulfur dioxide gas are

produced (DeltaStep, 2015).


Na2SO3 + H2SO4 Na2SO4 + H2O + SO2

When dilute sulfuric acid reacts with a metal, the metal displaces the hydrogen in H2SO4,

and hydrogen gas is released (DeltaStep, 2015).


Mg + H2SO4 MgSO4 + H2

When concentrated sulfuric acid reacts with a metal, the corresponding salts are formed,

water is formed and at the same time, sulfur dioxide gas is released. Sulfur is getting

oxidized, so concentrated sulfuric acid, acts as an oxidizing agent (DeltaStep, 2015).


Cu + 2H2SO4 CuSO4 + 2H2O + SO2

Concentrated sulfuric acid acts as an oxidizing agent. It oxidizes the metals and non-metals.

This means that oxygen is added to the metal or to the non-metal.


C + 2H2SO4 CO2 + 2H2O + 2SO2

Dilute sulfuric acid gives the normal test as all acids. When metals react with dilute acids,

they displace hydrogen gas and form the corresponding salts. But when metals react with

concentrated sulfuric acid, they give the oxidation products. That is concentrated sulfuric

acid acts as an oxidizing agent; it oxidizes the metals and non-metals (Pubchem, n.d.).

Concentrated sulfuric acid, always tries to remove water molecules, it has a dehydrating



HCOOH concentrated H2SO4 CO + H2O

Another property of concentrated sulfuric acid is that it is non-volatile. This means that it

has a very high boiling point of 338 degrees Celsius. From a non-volatile acid, a volatile

acid can be formed. When a salt reacts with an acid, it forms another salt and another acid,

the salt will be less volatile, and the acid will be more volatile (DeltaStep, 2015).


2NaCl + H2SO4 Na2SO4 + 2HCl

Less More
volatile volatile

Concentrated sulfuric acid is considered a weak acid and a poor electrolyte because

relatively little of it is dissociated into ions at room temperature. When cold, it does not

react readily with such common metals as iron or copper. When hot, it is an oxidizing

agent, the sulfur in it being reduced; sulfur dioxide gas may be released (“sulfuric acid

facts, information, pictures | articles about sulfuric acid,” n.d.)

Sulfuric acid is one of the most important compounds made by the chemical industry. It is

used to make hundreds of compounds needed by almost every industry. By far the largest

amount of sulfuric acid is used to make phosphoric acid, used, in turn, to make phosphate

fertilizers, calcium dihydrogenphosphate and the ammonium phosphates. It is also used to

make ammonium sulfate, which is a particularly important fertilizer in sulfur-deficient

(“Sulfuric acid,” n.d.).

Figure 4

Image from:

Annual production of sulfuric acid:

World 200 million tones

Europe 19 million tones

US 35.8 million tones

Russia 8.6 million tones (as oleum)

(“Sulfuric acid,” n.d.).

In the environment, sulfuric acid is a constituent of acid rain, since it is formed by

atmospheric oxidation of sulfur dioxide in the presence of water. Atmospheric sulfur

dioxide is generated by combustion of sulfur-containing fossil fuels such as coal and oil

(“Industrial Applications of Sulfuric Acid - World Of Chemicals,” n.d.).

Uses of sulfuric acid:

 Chemical manufacturing: it is used in the manufacturing process of a number of

well-known chemicals including hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, phosphoric acid and

many other industrial chemicals.

 Oil refining: sulfuric acid is used to act as a catalyst in the process of refining crude


 Metal processing: it is use to remove impurities from metals, like the rust or scale

from the surface, such as in steel making. Today the use of sulfuric acid for this

purpose has decreased, as the industry now favors the use of hydrochloric acid.

Although it is more expensive than sulfuric acid, it produces results more quickly

and minimizes the loss of base metal during the process.

 Manufacture of rayon: the textile rayon is made from cellulose fibers derived from

wood. These are dissolved in a solution of Tetra Amine Copper (II) to produce a

liquid, which is then injected into sulfuric acid to form Rayon fibers.

 Manufacture of Lead-Acid Type Batteries: sealed-unit lead-acid type batteries are

used in the automotive industry for cars and trucks. Frenchman Gaston Plants

invented them in 1859. Dilute sulfuric acid is use to act as an electrolyte to allow

the flow of electrons between the plates in the battery.

 Potato harvesting: farmers spray their fields with a solution of sulfuric acid before

harvesting so that the green tops die back and blacken with a day or two. This helps

to dry out the stem and prevents them from becoming tangled in the harvesting


 Manufacture of medicines: sulfuric acid is used in the manufacture of a drug known

as alkylating antineoplastic agents. This drug is used in chemotherapy, damaging

their DNA, destroying cancer cells, this process is known as alkylation of DNA.

Other uses:

 Batteries

 Detergents

 Explosives

 Gasoline

 Jet fuel

 Paper

 Leather

It is first important to understand how acids and bases work in order to research in depth for

any acid or base. One needs to understand the different theories of acids and bases, for one

to have an educated opinion about the subject. Knowing the difference between strong and

weak acids, concentrated and dilute, is always helpful to have a better understanding of

sulfuric acid, and the different properties and chemical reactions that can happen depending

on whether it is at a concentrated or diluted state. Also having previous knowledge of how

to balance equations, chemical reactions, bonding and oxidation numbers is crucial for a

better understanding of the chemical reactions that can happen between any base or any

acid and the possible outcomes. First one needs to understand what is happening in the

inside (electrons) to understand qualitative result. For example when sulfuric acid reacts

with sugar, since sulfuric acid is a dehydrating substance, it will take all the water from

sugar (C12H22O11) resulting in carbon and water as the products. This is what is happening

molecularly, what one can observe is that the sugar is turning black (just like carbon). If

one did not know the properties of acid and bases, and sulfuric acid, it is possible that that

reaction would not make sense.


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