Acids, Bases & Salts

Acids, bases and salts are three categories of important chemicals. The word „acid‟ means sour. In fact all acids are sour. Acids are produced when acidic oxides, e.g. CO2, SO2 are reacted with water. All acids are soluble in water. Acidic solutions are neutralised by bases1. These are another group of chemicals. Bases which are soluble in water are called alkalis. Acids and alkalis react with another type of chemicals called indicators. A colour change is obtained when alkalis and acids react with indicators.

Colour change given by acids and alkalis with indicators
Indicator Methyl Orange Litmus Acid pink red Neutral Alkaline orange purple yellow blue pink

Phenolphtalein colourless colourless

Indicators are usually obtained from lichens and other plant material. Universal indicator does not give one colour change but a series of colour changes. This shows that not all acids and bases are of the same strength. The strength of acids and alkalis is measured using a special scale - the pH scale.

The pH scale
The term „pH‟ is derived from the German word which means “power of hydrogen”. The pH scale varies from 0-14. The pH value is directly proportional to the concentration of H+ ions (for acids) or OH- ions (for alkalis). This will be discussed later. All acids have a pH less than 7. A pH value of 0 indicates a very strong acid, whilst a pH of 6 would indicate a weak acid.

Acids, Bases and Salts


b. Indicators such as methyl orange and phenolphthalein show only one colour with acids and one with alkalis. Bases and Salts 2 . can do this. More accurate pH readings are given with a pH meter. The most common definitions used today are: a. Since the latter changes colour at different pH values. A solution that has a pH value of 7 is neutral. Acids Weak and strong acids Definitions of acids have varied over the years as scientists have discovered more about them. neither acidic nor alkaline. An acid is a substance that reacts with a base to form a salt and water only. Hence they cannot indicate how acidic and how alkaline a solution is. i. H3O+ are produced. HCl(g) + H2O(l) --> H+(aq) (or H3O+(aq)) + Cl-(aq) Acids.e. i. For example. An acid is a substance which releases hydrogen ions (H+) when dissolved in water. A pH value of 8 indicates a very weak alkali whilst a pH value of 14 indicates a very strong alkali. These oxonium ions are formed when the acid is ionised2 in water. When acids are in solution oxonium ions.All alkalis have a pH greater than 7. Universal indicator though. As can be seen from the previous diagram.e. a colour change can indicate the pH of a solution. These oxonium ions are usually shown as H+(aq) to simplify matters. It is the latter property that gives acids their acidity and hence their properties. rough pH values can be obtained by the use of Universal indicator.

„Concentrated‟ and „dilute‟ refer only to the proportion of water and acid in the solution. Strong acids produce a high concentration of H+ ions whereas weak acids produce a low H+ concentration in solution. e. 7.g. Strong acids ionise completely when in solution.It is the oxonium ion that is the cause for acidic properties. H2O(l) + CO2(g) H2O(l) + SO2(g) Acids.g. 2. HCl(g) --> H+(aq) + Cl-(aq) Monobasic HNO3(g) --> H+(aq) + NO3-(aq) Monobasic H2SO4(g) --> 2H+(aq) + SO42-(aq) Dibasic Some acidic properties Acids: 1. Bases and Salts H2CO3(aq) H2SO3(aq) 3 . 6. ethanoic acid CH3COOH(l) + water CH3COO-(aq) + H+(aq) Two other weak acids include carbonic acid and sulphurous acid. 3. e. 5. 4. Note that strength does not have anything to do with concentration. sulphuric acid. H2SO4(l) + water --> 2 H+(aq) + SO42-(aq) Weak acids do not ionise completely when in solution. are „sour‟ are soluble in water are often corrosive change the colour of indicators are neutralised by bases react with some metals to release hydrogen react with carbonates to release carbon dioxide Not all acids have the same strength. The strength of an acid depends on the concentration of H+ ions formed in solution. The basicity of acids is an indication of how many H+ ions are formed from one molecule of acid.

Dilute acids react with metal oxides to form a salt and water.e. This is called a neutralisation reaction. CuO(s) + H2SO4(aq) --> CuSO4(aq) + H2O(l) d. because the acid and alkali neutralise each other out. carbon dioxide and water. The oxides usually have to be warmed. lemons and oranges) Found in grape juice Found in lemonade Some reactions of acids Some reactions are common to all acids. Dilute acids react with metal carbonates and hydrogencarbonates to form a salt.g.see Topic 10) to release hydrogen gas and form a salt. Bases and Salts 4 . Dilute acids react with alkalis to form a salt and water. Acids.The next table lists some common weak and strong acids. PbCO3(s) + 2HNO3(aq) --> Pb(NO3)2(aq) + CO2(g) + H2O(l) NaHCO3(s) + HCl(aq) --> NaCl(aq) + CO2(g) + H2O(l) c. Dilute acids react with reactive metals (i. Mg(s) + 2HCl(aq) --> MgCl2(aq) + H2(g) b. These include: a. Weak and strong acids Acid Nitric acid Sulphuric acid Hydrochloric acid Ethanoic acid Citric acid Tartaric acid Carbonic acid Formula Strength HNO3 H2SO4 HCl CH3COOH C6H8O7 C3H6O6 H2CO3 Very strong Strong Strong Weak Weak Weak Weak Occurrence Found in the lab Found in the lab Produced by the stomach Found in vinegar Found in the juice of citrus fruits (e. metals which are more electropositive than hydrogen .

Acids. Some insoluble and soluble bases Insoluble bases Copper (II) oxide (CuO) Iron (III) oxide (Fe2O3) Soluble bases Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) Potassium hydroxide (KOH) Copper (II) hydroxide (Cu(OH)2) Calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2) Lead (II) oxide (PbO) Ammonia solution (NH3(aq)) An alkali is a solution of a base in water. E. A base is a substance that reacts with an acid to produce a salt and water only.NaOH(aq) + HCl(aq) --> NaCl(aq) + H2O(l) Alkalis and bases One should not confuse the terms „alkali‟ and „base‟. Alkalis contain hydroxide ions OH-(aq) in solution and will neutralise acids. KOH(s) + water --> K+(aq) + OH-(aq) If an alkali does not ionise completely. Just as there are weak and strong acids. Mg(OH)2(s) + water Mg2+(aq) + 2OH-(aq) On the pH scale. The more an alkali ionises the stronger it is. are insoluble in water. unlike acids. This is because they react with natural oils on the skin to form a soap. strong alkalis have a pH value of over 11 whilst weak alkalis have a pH value between 7 and 11. They are neutral and have a pH of 7. Many of these bases. The strength of an alkali depends on the amount of OH. Therefore all soluble bases form alkaline solutions. NOTE: There are some substances that are neither acidic nor alkaline. a weak alkali is given. It is this soap that gives them their „slippery‟ feel. common salt. Bases and Salts 5 .g. Alkalis have a „soapy‟ feel. For example most metal oxides and hydroxides are bases. sodium nitrate and cane sugar give neutral solutions.ions in solution. These do not have any effect on indicators. there are weak and strong alkalis.

NaHSO4 from H2SO4. Bases and Salts 6 . Na2SO4 from H2SO4. and NaHCO3 from H2CO3. is a normal salt because the remaining hydrogens in the CH3 group are not ionizable.g. CH3COONa. Sodium sulphite Na2SO3 Preparation of salts Soluble salts are prepared in solution. e. The solution is then evaporated and the salt crystals form.g. If all the ionizable hydrogen is removed then a normal salt is formed. then an acid salt is formed. Insoluble salts on the otherhand are prepared by precipitation. sodium ethanoate. and NaCl from HCl.Salts Normal salts and acid salts A salt is a substance formed when either all or part of the ionizable hydrogen of an acid is replaced by a metallic or ammonium ion. If only some of the ionizable hydrogen is removed. Normal and acid salts Acid salts Potassium hydrogensulphate KHSO4 Sodium hydrogencarbonate NaHCO3 Normal salts Potassium sulphate K2SO4 Sodium carbonate Na2CO3 Calcium hydrogencarbonate Ca(HCO3)2 Calcium carbonate CaCO3 Sodium hydrogensulphite NaHSO3 Note: monobasic acids cannot form acid salts since they have only one ionizable hydrogen. Some soluble and insoluble salts Soluble Insoluble Acids. e.

(i) Mg(s) + H2SO4(aq) --> MgSO4(aq) + H2(g) (ii) CuO(s) + H2SO4(aq) --> CuSO4(aq) + H2O(g) Mg(OH)2(s) + H2SO4(aq) --> MgSO4(aq) + 2 H2O(l) PbCO3(s) + 2 HNO3(aq) --> Pb(NO3)2(aq) + CO2(g) Lead (II) and silver chlorides (lead (II) chloride is soluble in hot water) Lead (II) and barium sulphates (calcium sulphate is only slightly soluble) All other carbonates All other oxides and hydroxides (calcium and magnesium hydroxides are only slightly soluble) All other sulphides (iii) 2 NaOH(aq) + H2SO4(aq) Na2SO4(aq) + 2 H2O(l) Na2CO3(aq) + H2SO4(aq) Na2SO4(aq) + H2O(l) + CO2(g) Acids. hydroxide. Bases and Salts 7 . sodium. Synthesis (or direct combination of elements) e. (ii) an insoluble metal oxide. potassium and ammonium Oxides and hydroxides of lithium. potassium. calcium and ammonium Sulphides of sodium. or carbonate. The action of an acid on (i) a metal. Zn(s) + S(s) --> ZnS(s) 2 Fe(s) + 3Cl2(g) --> 2FeCl3(s) 2. (iii) an alkali or soluble carbonate.All sodium. potassium and ammonium Salts can be prepared by: 1.g. sodium. potassiumand ammonium salts All nitrates All chlorides except All sulphates except Carbonates of lithium.

Reaction of a dilute acid with a metal c. Precipitation PbNO3(aq) + H2SO4(aq) --> PbSO4(s) + HNO3(aq) Let‟s take a closer look at two of these methods . This is called a titration. Reaction of a dilute acid with an alkali This method is ideal for the preparation of the normal salt of reactive metals (it would be too dangerous to add the metal directly to the acid). Reaction of a dilute acid with a base d. Since both the reactants are in solution. Reaction of a dilute acid with a carbonate a.neutralisation and precipitation. Acids. Bases and Salts 8 . Neutralisation Acids can be neutralised by any of the following methods to form salts: a. Reaction of a dilute acid with an alkali b. a special technique is required.3.

zinc and iron). The crystals produced are filtered and dried in air. then the solution is ready to crystallise and it is left to cool.g. is evaporated slowly. Excess zinc is removed by filtration and the salt. Reaction of a dilute acid with a metal .1. Bases and Salts 9 . 4. 2. 3. H2SO4(aq) + Mg(s) --> MgSO4(aq) + H2(g) Acids. 3. Zinc is added to dilute sulphuric acid until an excess of zinc remains. In this way a hot concentrated solution is produced. neutralisation would have occurred and the experiment is stopped. HCl(aq) + NaOH(aq) --> NaCl(aq) + H2O(l) b. in this case zinc sulphate. Acid is dropped from a burette onto the conical flask until the indicator changes colour. If crystals form on its end. 1. The volume of acid that neutralises the known amount of alkali is noted. The same volume of acid and alkali are the mixed without the indicator. and then evaporated to obtain the salt by crystallisation. This is tested by dipping a cold glass rod in it.e. 2. An indicator is added to a conical flask containing a known volume of the alkali. dilute sulphuric acid and magnesium This method is suitable for less reactive metals (commonly used for magnesium. When the indicator changes colour.

CuO(s) + H2SO4(aq) --> CuSO4(aq) + H2O(l) d. Pb(NO3)2(aq) + Na2SO4(aq) --> PbSO4(s) + 2 NaNO3(aq) The precipitate of PbSO4 is filtered off. Solutions of two soluble salts are mixed and an insoluble salt is formed. 1.e. Reaction of a dilute acid with a base . washed with distilled water and dried. Reaction of a dilute acid with a carbonate . dilute nitric acid and lead (II) carbonate This can be used to make the normal salts of many metals.g. dilute sulphuric acid and copper (II) oxide This is usually suitable to produce normal salts of unreactive metals such as copper and lead. The procedure used is the same as that in (b). Bases and Salts 10 .c. This method is also called double decomposition. Precipitation This method is suitable for producing insoluble salts. For example to prepare lead (II) sulphate. Pb(NO3)2(aq) + 2 HCl(aq) --> PbCl2(s) + 2 HNO3(aq) AgNO3(aq) + HCl(aq) --> AgCl(s) + HNO3(aq) Acids. lead (II) nitrate and sodium sulphate may be used. It can be summarised as follows: soluble salt (XA) + soluble salt (YB) insoluble salt (XB) + soluble salt (YA) Other examples. 1. The procedure used is the same as that in (b) although the reactants may need to be warmed.g.e.

twice the volume of acid required to produce the normal salt is used. the blue hydrated compound forms again.e. A lot of heat energy is given out in the process (i. sodium carbonate decahydrate Acids. NaOH(aq) + H2SO4(aq) --> NaHSO4(aq) + H2O(l) Water of crystallisation and associated terminology Most salts produce crystals that have water incorporated in them. the reaction is very exothermic3). This reaction is used to test for the presence of water. Some hydrated salts lose some or all of their water of crystallisation spontaneously when left in air.5H2O(s) CuSO4(s) + 5H2O(l) If water is added to the anhydrous copper (II) sulphate. For example when blue crystals of copper (II) sulphate pentahydrate (CuSO4.10H2O CuSO4. CuSO4.5H2O) are heated. Salts that possess this water of crystallisation are called hydrates or as said to be hydrated.7H2O Water of crystallisation can be lost by heating the hydrated salt.5H2O FeSO4.BaCl2(aq) + H2SO4(aq) --> BaSO4(s) + 2 HCl(aq) Preparation of an acid salt When preparing an acid salt. Salts which lose this water of crystallisation are called anhydrous. This water is called water of crystallisation. they leave a white powder of anhydrous copper (II) sulphate. Bases and Salts 11 . e. For example.10H2O Na2SO4. Some hydrates Name Sodium carbonate crystals Sodium sulphate crystals Copper (II) sulphate crystals Iron (II) sulphate crystals Formula NaCO3.g.

10H2O) or washing soda.g. Other salts absorb water vapour from the air to form solutions. which is an alcohol. Such salts are said to effloresce (The process is called efflorescence). These substances are called hygroscopic. concentrated sulphuric acid. Hydrogen chloride does not behave the same in both solvents. methylbenzene is NOT a proton acceptor and in it hydrogen chloride is not ionised and remains mostly in the molecular state.g.(Na2CO3. Whereas in aqueous solution hydrogen chloride exhibits acidic properties. On the otherhand. i. sodium hydroxide.CH3) (also known as toluene).e. This also occurs as a natural process by bacterial action when they oxidise alcohol to form vinegar. e. hydrogen chloride is also soluble in other solvents such as methylbenzene (C6H5. Acids. anhydrous calcium chloride. in methylbenzene it does not (or very little). Everyday acids and alkalis Vinegar Vinegar is also known as acetic acid or more scientifically ethanoic acid. Water is a proton acceptor such that in water. For example. e. For the same reasons hydrogen chloride in water is a conductor of electricity whereas in methylbenzene it is not. a white precipitate of ammonium chloride is given. hydrogen chloride is ionised. It is formed by the oxidation of ethanol. absorb water vapour but do not form solutions or change their state. Bases and Salts 12 . it forms ions. When are acids not acids? A solution of hydrogen chloride (HCl) in water is acidic. Other substances if left in the air. Also. Why is this so ? The answer to this behaviour of hydrogen chloride is obtained when one looks at the solvent. calcium oxide. This process is called deliquescence and the substances which behave so are said to deliquesce. But besides water. if ammonia gas is passed in a solution of hydrogen chloride in methylbenzene. In this state it does not exhibit any acidic properties since acidity depends on H+ ions. concentrated sulphuric acid absorbs moisture from the air and becomes diluted whilst still remaining a liquid.

Ethanoic acid is a typical organic acid. CH3COO-(aq) + H3O+(aq) Acids. It merely incandesces and gives out a powerful light. or calcium hydroxide.H2O‟. Bleach solution is alkaline. It is a base and in water it forms an alkaline solution called slaked lime. soften temporary hard water. Bases and Salts 13 . In fact the formula of ethanoic acid is CH3COOH. It is also an oxidising agent and adds oxygen to whiten objects. even at very high temperatures.This is why some wines often have a sour taste. CH3COOH(l) + H2O(l) Bleach solution Bleaching powder is manufactured by passing chlorine over moist calcium hydroxide. It does not melt easily. Quicklime and slaked lime Quicklime or calcium oxide is a white solid. make mortar which is used in building. treat „acid‟ soils. make „milk of lime‟ which is used as whitewash. Slaked lime has several uses such as: to to to to to to recover ammonia from ammonium chloride in the Solvay process. It has a complex structure which can be simplified to „CaOCl2. The characteristic group or functional group of organic acids is the COOH group. make bleaching powder. Vinegar is a weak acid because it does not ionise fully. Once it was used for this purpose (lime-light).