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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

All alkalis have a pH greater than 7. A pH value of 8 indicates a very weak alkali whilst a pH value of 14 indicates a very strong alkali. A solution that has a pH value of 7 is neutral, i.e. neither acidic nor alkaline. Indicators such as methyl orange and phenolphthalein show only one colour with acids and one with alkalis. Hence they cannot indicate how acidic and how alkaline a solution is. Universal indicator though, can do this. As can be seen from the previous diagram, rough pH values can be obtained by the use of Universal indicator. Since the latter changes colour at different pH values, a colour change can indicate the pH of a solution. More accurate pH readings are given with a pH meter.

Weak and strong acids Definitions of acids have varied over the years as scientists have discovered more about them. The most common definitions used today are:

a. An acid is a substance that reacts with a base to form a salt and water only. b. An acid is a substance which releases hydrogen ions (H+) when dissolved in water.
It is the latter property that gives acids their acidity and hence their properties. When acids are in solution oxonium ions, i.e. H3O+ are produced. These oxonium ions are usually shown as H+(aq) to simplify matters. These oxonium ions are formed when the acid is ionised2 in water. For example, HCl(g) + H2O(l) --> H+(aq) (or H3O+(aq)) + Cl-(aq)

Acids, Bases and Salts

It is the oxonium ion that is the cause for acidic properties. The basicity of acids is an indication of how many H+ ions are formed from one molecule of acid. 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. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 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. Note that strength does not have anything to do with concentration. Concentrated and dilute refer only to the proportion of water and acid in the solution. The strength of an acid depends on the concentration of H+ ions formed in solution. Strong acids produce a high concentration of H+ ions whereas weak acids produce a low H+ concentration in solution. Strong acids ionise completely when in solution, e.g. sulphuric acid. H2SO4(l) + water --> 2 H+(aq) + SO42-(aq) Weak acids do not ionise completely when in solution, e.g. ethanoic acid CH3COOH(l) + water CH3COO-(aq) + H+(aq)

Two other weak acids include carbonic acid and sulphurous acid. H2O(l) + CO2(g) H2O(l) + SO2(g) Acids, Bases and Salts H2CO3(aq) H2SO3(aq) 3

The next table lists some common weak and strong acids.

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.g. lemons and oranges) Found in grape juice Found in lemonade

Some reactions of acids

Some reactions are common to all acids. These include: a. Dilute acids react with reactive metals (i.e. metals which are more electropositive than hydrogen - see Topic 10) to release hydrogen gas and form a salt. Mg(s) + 2HCl(aq) --> MgCl2(aq) + H2(g) b. Dilute acids react with metal carbonates and hydrogencarbonates to form a salt, carbon dioxide and water. 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 metal oxides to form a salt and water. The oxides usually have to be warmed. CuO(s) + H2SO4(aq) --> CuSO4(aq) + H2O(l) d. Dilute acids react with alkalis to form a salt and water. This is called a neutralisation reaction, because the acid and alkali neutralise each other out. Acids, Bases and Salts 4

NaOH(aq) + HCl(aq) --> NaCl(aq) + H2O(l)

Alkalis and bases

One should not confuse the terms alkali and base. A base is a substance that reacts with an acid to produce a salt and water only. For example most metal oxides and hydroxides are bases. Many of these bases, unlike acids, are insoluble in water.

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. Therefore all soluble bases form alkaline solutions. Alkalis contain hydroxide ions OH-(aq) in solution and will neutralise acids. Alkalis have a soapy feel. This is because they react with natural oils on the skin to form a soap. It is this soap that gives them their slippery feel. Just as there are weak and strong acids, there are weak and strong alkalis. The strength of an alkali depends on the amount of OH- ions in solution. The more an alkali ionises the stronger it is. KOH(s) + water --> K+(aq) + OH-(aq) If an alkali does not ionise completely, a weak alkali is given, Mg(OH)2(s) + water Mg2+(aq) + 2OH-(aq)

On the pH scale, strong alkalis have a pH value of over 11 whilst weak alkalis have a pH value between 7 and 11. NOTE: There are some substances that are neither acidic nor alkaline. They are neutral and have a pH of 7. These do not have any effect on indicators. E.g. common salt, sodium nitrate and cane sugar give neutral solutions.

Acids, Bases and Salts

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 all the ionizable hydrogen is removed then a normal salt is formed, e.g. Na2SO4 from H2SO4, and NaCl from HCl. If only some of the ionizable hydrogen is removed, then an acid salt is formed, e.g. NaHSO4 from H2SO4, and NaHCO3 from H2CO3.

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; CH3COONa, sodium ethanoate, is a normal salt because the remaining hydrogens in the CH3 group are not ionizable. Sodium sulphite Na2SO3

Preparation of salts
Soluble salts are prepared in solution. The solution is then evaporated and the salt crystals form. Insoluble salts on the otherhand are prepared by precipitation.

Some soluble and insoluble salts

Soluble Insoluble

Acids, Bases and Salts

All sodium, potassiumand ammonium salts All nitrates All chlorides except All sulphates except Carbonates of lithium, sodium, potassium and ammonium Oxides and hydroxides of lithium, sodium, potassium, calcium and ammonium Sulphides of sodium, potassium and ammonium Salts can be prepared by: 1. Synthesis (or direct combination of elements) e.g. Zn(s) + S(s) --> ZnS(s) 2 Fe(s) + 3Cl2(g) --> 2FeCl3(s) 2. The action of an acid on (i) a metal, (ii) an insoluble metal oxide, hydroxide, or carbonate, (iii) an alkali or soluble carbonate. (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, Bases and Salts

3. Precipitation PbNO3(aq) + H2SO4(aq) --> PbSO4(s) + HNO3(aq) Lets take a closer look at two of these methods - neutralisation and precipitation.

Acids can be neutralised by any of the following methods to form salts: a. Reaction of a dilute acid with an alkali b. Reaction of a dilute acid with a metal c. Reaction of a dilute acid with a base d. Reaction of a dilute acid with a carbonate

a. 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).

Since both the reactants are in solution, a special technique is required. This is called a titration.

Acids, Bases and Salts

1. An indicator is added to a conical flask containing a known volume of the alkali. When the indicator changes colour, neutralisation would have occurred and the experiment is stopped. 2. Acid is dropped from a burette onto the conical flask until the indicator changes colour. The volume of acid that neutralises the known amount of alkali is noted. 3. The same volume of acid and alkali are the mixed without the indicator, and then evaporated to obtain the salt by crystallisation. HCl(aq) + NaOH(aq) --> NaCl(aq) + H2O(l)

b. Reaction of a dilute acid with a metal - e.g. dilute sulphuric acid and magnesium
This method is suitable for less reactive metals (commonly used for magnesium, zinc and iron).

1. Zinc is added to dilute sulphuric acid until an excess of zinc remains. 2. Excess zinc is removed by filtration and the salt, in this case zinc sulphate, is evaporated slowly. 3. In this way a hot concentrated solution is produced. This is tested by dipping a cold glass rod in it. If crystals form on its end, then the solution is ready to crystallise and it is left to cool. 4. The crystals produced are filtered and dried in air. H2SO4(aq) + Mg(s) --> MgSO4(aq) + H2(g) Acids, Bases and Salts 9

c. Reaction of a dilute acid with a base - e.g. dilute sulphuric acid and copper (II) oxide
This is usually suitable to produce normal salts of unreactive metals such as copper and lead. 1. The procedure used is the same as that in (b) although the reactants may need to be warmed. CuO(s) + H2SO4(aq) --> CuSO4(aq) + H2O(l)

d. Reaction of a dilute acid with a carbonate - e.g. dilute nitric acid and lead (II) carbonate
This can be used to make the normal salts of many metals. 1. The procedure used is the same as that in (b).

This method is suitable for producing insoluble salts. Solutions of two soluble salts are mixed and an insoluble salt is formed. For example to prepare lead (II) sulphate, lead (II) nitrate and sodium sulphate may be used. Pb(NO3)2(aq) + Na2SO4(aq) --> PbSO4(s) + 2 NaNO3(aq) The precipitate of PbSO4 is filtered off, washed with distilled water and dried. This method is also called double decomposition. It can be summarised as follows: soluble salt (XA) + soluble salt (YB) insoluble salt (XB) + soluble salt (YA) Other examples, Pb(NO3)2(aq) + 2 HCl(aq) --> PbCl2(s) + 2 HNO3(aq) AgNO3(aq) + HCl(aq) --> AgCl(s) + HNO3(aq)

Acids, Bases and Salts


BaCl2(aq) + H2SO4(aq) --> BaSO4(s) + 2 HCl(aq)

Preparation of an acid salt

When preparing an acid salt, twice the volume of acid required to produce the normal salt is used. For example, NaOH(aq) + H2SO4(aq) --> NaHSO4(aq) + H2O(l)

Water of crystallisation and associated terminology

Most salts produce crystals that have water incorporated in them. This water is called water of crystallisation. Salts that possess this water of crystallisation are called hydrates or as said to be hydrated. Salts which lose this water of crystallisation are called anhydrous.

Some hydrates
Name Sodium carbonate crystals Sodium sulphate crystals Copper (II) sulphate crystals Iron (II) sulphate crystals Formula NaCO3.10H2O Na2SO4.10H2O CuSO4.5H2O FeSO4.7H2O

Water of crystallisation can be lost by heating the hydrated salt. For example when blue crystals of copper (II) sulphate pentahydrate (CuSO4.5H2O) are heated, they leave a white powder of anhydrous copper (II) sulphate. CuSO4.5H2O(s) CuSO4(s) + 5H2O(l)

If water is added to the anhydrous copper (II) sulphate, the blue hydrated compound forms again. A lot of heat energy is given out in the process (i.e. 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, e.g. sodium carbonate decahydrate

Acids, Bases and Salts


(Na2CO3.10H2O) or washing soda. Such salts are said to effloresce (The process is called efflorescence). Other salts absorb water vapour from the air to form solutions. This process is called deliquescence and the substances which behave so are said to deliquesce, e.g. sodium hydroxide, anhydrous calcium chloride. Other substances if left in the air, absorb water vapour but do not form solutions or change their state. For example, concentrated sulphuric acid absorbs moisture from the air and becomes diluted whilst still remaining a liquid. These substances are called hygroscopic, e.g. calcium oxide, concentrated sulphuric acid.

When are acids not acids?

A solution of hydrogen chloride (HCl) in water is acidic. But besides water, hydrogen chloride is also soluble in other solvents such as methylbenzene (C6H5.CH3) (also known as toluene). Hydrogen chloride does not behave the same in both solvents. Whereas in aqueous solution hydrogen chloride exhibits acidic properties, in methylbenzene it does not (or very little). Why is this so ? The answer to this behaviour of hydrogen chloride is obtained when one looks at the solvent. Water is a proton acceptor such that in water, hydrogen chloride is ionised, i.e. it forms ions. On the otherhand, methylbenzene is NOT a proton acceptor and in it hydrogen chloride is not ionised and remains mostly in the molecular state. In this state it does not exhibit any acidic properties since acidity depends on H+ ions. For the same reasons hydrogen chloride in water is a conductor of electricity whereas in methylbenzene it is not. Also, if ammonia gas is passed in a solution of hydrogen chloride in methylbenzene, a white precipitate of ammonium chloride is given.

Everyday acids and alkalis

Vinegar Vinegar is also known as acetic acid or more scientifically ethanoic acid. It is formed by the oxidation of ethanol, which is an alcohol. This also occurs as a natural process by bacterial action when they oxidise alcohol to form vinegar. Acids, Bases and Salts 12

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

Acids, Bases and Salts