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Modern Theories

of
Acids & Bases
The Arrhenius
and
Bronsted-Lowry Theories

Acids & Bases


Acids and bases are special kinds of
electrolytes. Like all electrolytes they
break up into charged particles.
What sets them apart from each other,
and other electrolytes is the way that they
break up.

Arrhenius Acids
Svente Arrhenius (who first proposed the
theory of ionization) identified acids as
substances that ionize in water to produce
hydronium ion.
For example:
HCl + H2O H3O+ + ClAny substance that ionizes in water to
produce hydronium ion can be classified as
an acid.

H3O (aka H )
+

The hydronium ion is also known as a hydrogen ion.


This allows us to shorten the ionization reactions for
acids. The following equations represent the same
chemical change:
HCl + H2O H3O+ + Cland
HCl H+ + Cl-

However, it should be understood that H+ is an


abbreviation for the hydronium ion. H+ ions DO NOT
exist in water solution but are snatched up by water
molecules to form hydronium ions.

Arrhenius Base
Svente Arrhenius also identified bases as
substances that ionize in water to produce
hydroxide ion.
For example:
NaOH Na+ + OHAny substance that ionizes in water to produce
hydroxide ion can be classified as a base.

Properties of Acids
All acids have the following properties:
Neutralize bases to form a salt and water
Have a sour taste (example: citric acid,
vinegar)
React with metals to produce a salt plus
hydrogen gas.
Have pHs less than 7 / Affect indicators

Why?
Because all acids have H3O+ ions present!

Properties of Bases
All bases have the following properties:
Neutralize acids to form a salt and water
Have a bitter taste (example: unsweetened
chocolate, heroin)
Are slippery. React with fats/oils to form
soap (saponification)
Have pHs greater than 7 / Affect indicators

Why?
Because all bases have OH- ions present!

Salts
Ionic substances that break up in solution to
produce ions other than hydronium and
hydroxide ions.
NaCl (s) Na+(aq) + Cl- (aq)
KNO3(s) K+ (aq) + NO3- (aq)
Li2SO4 (s) 2 Li+ (aq) + SO42-(aq)
Salts are made up of positive (metal) and negative (nonmetallic or polyatomic) ions. The more familiar you
become with Table E, the easier it will be for you to identify
salts.

Practice
Identify each of the following as
acids/bases/salts:
1. HC2H3O2
2. K2SO4
3. KOH
4. LiOH
5. HNO3

Acid HC2H3O2 H+ + C2H3O2Salt K2SO4 2K+ + SO42Base KOH K+ + OHBase LiOH Li+ + OHAcid HNO3 H+ + NO3-

Strong/Weak Acids
Acids can be either strong electrolytes or weak
electrolytes.
Strong acids (such as HCl) completely break up into
their ions:
HCl (aq) H+(aq) + Cl-(aq)
Weak acids (such as HC2H3O2) only partially break up
into their ions:
HC2H3O2 H+ (aq) + C2H3O2-(aq)
Weak acids dont completely break up because they go to
equilibrium!

Strong/Weak Bases
Bases can be either strong electrolytes or weak
electrolytes.
Strong bases (such as NaOH) completely break up into
their ions:
NaOH (aq) Na+(aq) + OH-(aq)
Weak bases (such as NH3) only partially break up into
their ions:
NH3 (aq) + H2 O NH4+ (aq) + OH-(aq)
Weak bases dont completely break up because they go to
equilibrium!

Bronsted-Lowry Acids &


Bases
Another theory of acids & bases

Not everyone was happy with


Arrheniuss definition
A major problem with the Arrhenius definition of
acids and bases is that it limits acids and bases
to water (aqueous) solutions.
Since an acid requires water to ionize and form
hydronium ions, there can be no Arrhenius acids
unless water is involved as the solvent.

Relationship between the two


models
Arrhenius
Acids/Bases only
exist in water
solutions.

BronstedLowry
Acids/Bases
can exist
when no
water is
present

All Arrhenius acids and bases can also be classified as


Bronsted-Lowry acids and bases.

Bronsted-Lowry Definitions
Bronsted and Lowry felt that this was too limiting, since
there are many non-aqueous systems (no water is
present).
They came up with the following definitions for acids and
bases.

An acid is a proton (H+ ion) donor


A base is a proton acceptor

An example
In the reaction below there are no Arrhenius
acids or bases present (because no
hydronium ions or hydroxide ions are formed).

However, the HCl is acting as a BronstedLowry acid because it is giving a H+ ion to


the NH3 (which is acting as a H+ ion
acceptor - a base)

Acid & Bases are Roles


In the Bronsted-Lowry definition, substances
are classified as acids or bases depending
on how they behave in a given situation.
This means that the same substance can
act as a acid in one reaction (by donating
a proton) while acting as a base in another
reaction

HCl as a proton donor


Consider the following reaction:

Since the HCl gives up a H+ ion to the water it is acting


as a Bronsted-Lowry acid. In the process of donating
the proton it also forms a hydronium ion, and that makes
it an Arrhenius acid as well.

Water as a base
But what does that make the water molecule?

Since the water molecule is accepting the H+ ion, it is


acting as a Bronsted-Lowry base. Since there is no
hydroxide ion (OH-) formed, the water is not acting as an
Arrhenius base in this reaction.

Ammonia as a base
Lets look at another example:

Here the ammonia molecule is accepting a H+ ion and


therefore is acting as an Bronsted-Lowry base.
However, in the process of reacting with the water it is
also forming a hydroxide ion. That makes the ammonia
an Arrhenius base as well.

But what about the water?

Since the water is giving up a H+ ion, it is


acting as a Bronsted-Lowry acid. Since it
does not form hydronium ions, it is NOT
acting an Arrhenius acid.

So is water an acid or a base?


In one example, we said that water was acting as a
base, and in another example we said that it was acting
as an acid.
Some of you may be confused by this because you are
thinking of acids and bases as being like boys and girls.
Boys are boys and girls are girls, and they cant switch
back and forth. However, acids and bases are NOT
like this.

Teacher-student model
Teachers give off information (like acids give off protons)
Students accept information (like bases accept protons)
Sometimes teachers are students, and sometimes students
are teachers
Teacher and students are roles that individuals play
depending on the situation.
Acid and base are roles that molecules play in a
particular chemical reaction. In different reactions they
may play different roles.

Amphiprotic
Sometimes a molecule can donate a proton (act as an
acid) and sometimes it can accept a proton (act as a
base).
Molecules that have this ability to act as both an acid and
a base are called amphoteric or amphiprotic.
Water is the most common example of an
amphoteric substance.

Reality check
For each of the following reactions identify any BronstedLowry acids and bases.
acid

base

HNO
+ H2O H3O+ + NO3acid 3
base
base
HNO3 + NH3 NH4+ + NO3acid
acid
S2+ Hbase
+ OH2O HS
HS
+ acid
OH- S2- + H-OH
base
HS+ HCl H2S + ClAre any of the substances above amphoteric?

Acid-base equilibrium
Many acid base reactions go to equilibrium, that is they
have both a forward and reverse reactions
For instance, acetic acid (HC2H3O2) reacts with water to
form hydronium ion and acetate ion.

The reverse reaction


However, the acetic acid only partially ionizes because a
reverse reaction takes place preventing the forward
reaction from reaching completion.

In the reverse reaction, the Hydronium ion acts as an acid


(a proton donor) while the acetate ion acts as the base.

Conjugate Acid-Bases
When a substance donates a proton, the substance that
is left is its conjugative base:

Notice that the conjugative base is accepting a proton in


the reverse reaction.
Every acid has a conjugative base

Conjugative Acid-Base Pairs 2


When a substance accepts a proton, the substance that
is formed is its conjugative acid:

Notice that the conjugative acid is donating a proton in


the reverse reaction.
Every base has a conjugative acid

Identify the
amphoteric
substances in
this chart.

Salts

Salts are generally defined as ionic substances that


PRIMARILY produce positive and negative ions other
than hydronium or hydroxide when they dissolve in
water.

Types of Salts
Salts can be classified as being:
neutral
acidic
Basic
How a salt is classified depends upon whether
secondary reactions between the ions making up the
salt and water form either hydronium or hydroxide
ions.

Determining the type of salt


The type of salt for a particular salt can be determined
experimentally by testing the salt solution with universal
indicator paper.
neutral salts will have a pH of 7
acidic salts will have a pH of less than 7
basic salts will have a pH of greater than 7
Typically, the pH values of salt solutions will be closer to
7 than that of acids or bases.

Predicting the type of salt


All salts can be considered to be formed from their
parent acid and base by means of the
neutralization reaction.
Acid + Base Salt + Water
The type of salt can be theoretically predicted based on the
properties of the parent acid and the parent base.

Neutral Salts
Neutral salts are formed from a reaction between a
strong acid and a strong base.
(Remember neutralization reactions are double replacement
reactions.)
For instance,

HCl

+ NaOH NaCl

HOH

(since HCl is a strong acid and NaOH is a strong base, NaCl is a


neutral salt.)

Acidic Salts
Acidic salts are formed from a strong acid and
a weak base.
For instance,
HCl

+ NH4OH NH4Cl

HOH

(since HCl is a strong acid and NH4OH is a weak base,


NH4Cl is an acidic salt.)

Basic Salts
Basic salts are formed from a weak acid and a
strong base.
For instance,
HC2H3O2

+ NaOH NaC2H3O2

HOH

(since HC2H3O2 is a weak acid and NaOH is a strong base,


NaC2H3O2 is a basic salt.)

Strong and weak acids


In predicting the type of salt it is helpful to remember the
three strong acids:

HCl hydrochloric acid


HNO3 nitric acid

H2SO4 sulfuric acid

Most other acids are weak. Acetic acid (HC2H3O2) is the


most common weak acid discussed in Regents
chemistry.

Strong and Weak Bases


For bases, the Group I hydroxides are all strong bases.
LiOH lithium hydroxide
NaOH sodium hydroxide
KOH potassium hydroxide
Most other hydroxides can be considered as weak
bases. Ammonia or Ammonium hydroxide (NH3 or
NH4OH) is the most common weak base discussed in
Regents chemistry.

Try these
Identify the parent acid and base for the following salts,
identify them as strong or weak and predict the type of
salt formed.

Answers