Test your knowledge about acids and bases!
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Acid dissociation constant
Self-ionization of water
Brønsted · Lewis · Mineral
Organic · Strong
Superacids · Weak
Brønsted · Lewis · Organic
Strong · Superbases
Non-nucleophilic · Weak
An acid (from the Latin acidus/acēre meaning sour) is a substance which reacts with a base. Commonly, acids can be identified as tasting sour, reacting with metals such as calcium, and bases like sodium carbonate. Aqueous acids have a pH under 7, with acidity increasing the lower the pH. Chemicals or substances having the property of an acid are said to be acidic.
Common examples of acids include acetic acid (in vinegar), sulfuric acid (used in car batteries), and tartaric acid (used in baking). As these three examples show, acids can be solutions, liquids, or solids. Gases such as hydrogen chloride can be acids as well when dissolved in water. Strong acids and some concentrated weak acids are corrosive, but there are exceptions such as carboranes and boric acid.
There are three common definitions for acids: the Arrhenius definition, the Brønsted-Lowry definition, and the Lewis definition. The Arrhenius definition states that acids are substances which increase the concentration of hydronium ions (H3O+) in solution. The Brønsted-Lowry definition is an expansion: an acid is a substance which can act as a proton donor. Most acids encountered in everyday life are aqueous solutions, or can be dissolved in water, and these two definitions are most relevant. The reason why pHs of acids are less than 7 is that the concentration of hydronium ions is greater than 10−7 moles per liter. Since pH is defined as the negative logarithm of the concentration of hydronium ions, acids thus have pHs of less than 7. By the Brønsted-Lowry definition, any compound which can easily be deprotonated can be considered an acid. Examples include alcohols and amines which contain O-H or N-H fragments.
In chemistry, the Lewis definition of acidity is frequently encountered. Lewis acids are electron-pair acceptors. Examples of Lewis acids include all metal cations, and electron-deficient molecules such as boron trifluoride and aluminium trichloride. Hydronium ions are acids according to all three definitions. Interestingly, although alcohols and amines can be Brønsted-Lowry acids as mentioned above, they can also function as Lewis bases due to the lone pairs of electrons on their oxygen and nitrogen atoms.
A base in chemistry is a substance that can accept hydrogen cations (protons) or more generally, donate a pair of valence electrons. A soluble base is referred to as an alkali if it contains and releases hydroxide ions (OH−) quantitatively. The Brønsted-Lowry theory defines bases as proton(hydrogen ion) acceptors, while the more general Lewis theory defines bases as electron pair donors, allowing other Lewis acids than protons to be included. The oldest Arrhenius theory defines bases as hydroxide anions, which is strictly applicable only to alkali. In water, by altering theautoionization equilibrium, bases give solutions with a hydrogen ion activity lower than that of pure water, i.e., a pH higher than 7.0 at standard conditions. Examples of common bases are sodium hydroxide and ammonia. Metal oxides, hydroxides and especially alkoxides are basic, and counteranions of weak acids are weak bases.
Bases can be thought of as the chemical opposite of acids. A reaction between an acid and base is called neutralization. Bases and acids are seen as opposites because the effect of an acid is to increase the hydronium ion (H3O+) concentration in water, whereas bases reduce this concentration. Bases and acids are typically found in aqueous solution forms. Aqueous solutions of bases react with aqueous solutions of acids to produce waterand salts in aqueous solutions in which the salts separate into their component ions. If the aqueous solution is a saturated solution with respect to a given salt solute any additional such salt present in the solution will result in formation of a precipitate of the salt.