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Acids and Bases

-compare and contrast acids and bases and their properties

Compare and contrast acids and bases

- Form Hydrogen ions when dissolved in water
- Have PH values below 7
- Increased hydrogen ions (H+)
- Lituns turns red
- Ex. Vinegar and Lemon
- Reduce the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution
- PH values above 7
- Forms hydrogen (OH-)
- Litnus turns blue
- Ex. Antiacid, Hand Soap, and Ammonia
- Hydrogen ions
- Not Neutral
- Water Based

The pH scale at 25 C spans from 0 to 14. From 0 -7 are the acids and 7-14 are called bases.
pH= 7 is called as the neutral and pure water is the best example for a neutral solution.
Strong acids have pH value close to 0 and examples for strong acids are concentrated sulfuric
acid, concentrated HCl. Weak acids have pH close to 7, usually in the range of 5-7. Some
typical examples are citric acid and acetic acid.
Weak bases have pH values slightly higher than 7. Examples for weak bases are Na2CO3.
Strong bases have pH close to 14 but often over 12. Some typical examples are NaOH, KOH
and LiOH.
A strong acid would neutralize with a strong base to form a neutral solution(pH=7) while with a
weak base it would result in an acidic solution (pH <7). A strong base would react with a weak
acid to form an alkaline (basic) solution (pH >7) and with weak acid it would form a solution
which is almost neutral.
Both acid and base solutions form electrolytic solutions which conduct electricity.
In Litmus test, acids change litmus paper red while bases change it to blue. Acids usually react
with metals and bases usually reacts with non metals.

Bases are the chemical opposite of acids. Acids are defined as compounds that donate a
hydrogen ion (H+) to another compound (called a base). Traditionally, an acid (from the
Latin acidus or acere meaning sour) was any chemical compound that, when dissolved in
water, gives a solution with a hydrogen ion activity greater than in pure water, i.e. a pH less

than 7.0. Correspondingly, abase was any compound that, when dissolved in water, gives a
solution with a hydrogen ion activity lower than that of pure water, i.e. a pH higher than 7.0 at
standard conditions.
A soluble base is also called an alkali. A reaction between an acid and a base is called neutralization
and this neutralization results in production of water and a salt. Volatile liquids (acids) when mixed
with specific substances turn into salts. These substances form a concrete base and hence the
name base was derived. Acids in general are H+ donors and Bases are H+ acceptors.
Comparison chart



Arrhenius Definition: An acid is any chemical

compound which when dissolved in water
gives a solution with a hydrogen ion activity
greater than in pure water. Bronstead Lowry
Definition: An acid is an substance which
donates a proton.

Arrhenius Definition: A base is an

aqueous substance that can
accept hydrogen ions. Bronstead
Lowry Definition: A base is any
substance which accepts a

Less than 7.0.

Greater than 7.0 and could go up

to 14 in case of stronger bases.


Depending on the temperature, acids can

occur in solid, liquid or gaseous form. Taste

Bases feel slippery because of the

reaction of the base with the oils
of your hand. Frequently solids
except ammonia which is a gas.
Taste bitter.


depends on concentration of the hydronium


depends on concentration of the

hydroxide ions


remains colorless

Makes it pink

Other Properties

Electrolytes, conduct electricity (because

electrolytes), react with many metals.

Electrolytes, conduct electricity,

ranges from insoluble to so
soluble that they can react with
water vapor.

Acids free hydrogen ions (H+) when mixed

Bases free hydroxide ions (OH-)


pH (measure of
concentration of
hydrogen ions in a


Chemical Formula


Litmus test



with water.

when mixed with water.

An acid has a chemical formula with H at the

beginning of it. For example, HCl
(Hydrochloric Acid). There is one exception
to his rule, CH3COOH = Acetic Acid

A base has a chemical formula

with OH at the end of it. For
example, NaOH (Sodium

Acetic acid i.e.CH3COOH and Sulfuric acid

Sodium Hydroxide (NAOH) and

Ammonia (NH3)

Acids change litmus paper red.

Bases change litmus paper blue.

Properties of acids vs bases

Bases have a slippery feel on fingers and taste bitter. They change litmus paper blue. Acids taste
sour and create a stinging feeling on the mucous membranes. They change litmus paper red. They
can react with bases to produce salts and water. They both conduct electricity depending on the
dissociation of ions. Acids have a pH lesser than 7.0 and the lower it is, the stronger the acid
becomes. Bases have a pH between 7 and 14. Higher the pH value, stronger will be the base. A pH
level of 7 is a neutral substance which is water.
Differences in Applications for acids and bases
Acids are often used to remove rust from metals, as an electrolyte in batteries, for mineral processing,
to produce fertilizers and gasoline and as additives in food and beverages. Bases are used primarily in
cleaning as dishwashing and laundry detergents, oven cleaners and stain removers.
-relate the importance of buffers/neutralization to the human body and environment

Importance of Buffers in Physiological, Natural and Industrial Systems

Buffers & Buffer Solutions:

Buffers are substances that minimize changes in concentrations of ions i.e. either H + ions or OH- ions.
A buffer solution is that which resists changes in pH and whose pH is not altered to any great extent by
the addition of small quantities of either strong acid (H + ions) or a strong base (OH ions) is called the
buffer solution.
Composition of a buffer:
Buffer in acidic range is a mixture of a weak acid and salt of conjugate base of the weak acid. And a buffer
in a basic region is a mixture of weak base and salt of conjugate acid of weak base.
Le Chatelier's Principle and working of buffers:

We have studied years earlier in FSc a principle called Le Chateliers principle. All buffers works on Le
Chateliers principle. Le Chatelier's Principle states that the left and right side of the reaction prefer a
certain balance or ratio between themselves. We now that many chemical reactions are reversible. As we
talk about weak acid in buffer solutions generally so we take an example of a weak acid,
CH3COO- and H+ (the products) can combine to form CH 3COOH (starting material), which may called as
"reverse reaction." A reaction can thus proceed to the right or left, forward or reverse. In this case, Le
Chatelier's Principle basically states that if you add more products (H + or acetate), the reaction will shift to
the left (toward starting materials) and the starting material (acetic acid) will form in response. When
CH3COOH forms, H+ is removed from the solution as it bonds with CH3COO -, and thus the acidity of the
solution will not increase and if a base is added, more H + is released and the pH of the solution remain
unchanged. This is the method by which a buffer solution, or a combination of an acid and its
conjugate base, can resist changes in pH.
Importance of Buffers:
Chemistry plays an important role in our surrounding environment, daily lives and biological systems. So
buffers being an integral part of inorganic chemistry also prove the importance of applied chemistry in
environment and other sectors.

Importance of Buffers in Physiological Systems:

Processes that take place in living organisms are called physiological processes. Like blood circulatory
system, respiration etc. The internal pH of most living cells is close to 7.0. The pH of human blood is 7.4.
A blood pH of below 7 or above 7.8 can cause death within minutes. So buffering of blood pH is very
important to stabilize it around 7.4. pH plays an important role in almost all biological processes. Small
change in pH i.e. deceased or high pH can cause metabolic implications in human body like acidosis and
alkalosis. Where metabolism is involved there would be definitely a need of buffer as within cells
metabolism is associated with the release of protons (H +) i.e. decrease in pH or uptake of protons (H +) i.e.
increase in pH. Important buffers that are dominant in human body are


Bicarbonate buffers


Phosphate buffers


Protein buffers
Different factors are involved in choosing a buffer for a particular biological reaction or biological sites.
These factors include


Desired pH

Toxicity to the system

Interactions of buffer with other biological components


Bicarbonates buffers (Buffering in blood)

Blood is a biological fluid in which Carbonic acid and Hydrogen carbonate buffer system plays an
important role in maintaining pH around 7.40. In this buffer, carbonic acid (H 2CO3) act as a weak acid and
hydrogen carbonate ion (HCO3-) act as conjugate base of a weak acid or salt of weak acid.

H2CO3 H+ + HCO3When there is excessive amount of H+ in the blood it is consumed by HCO3- forming carbonic acid that is
a weak acid which does not alter the blood pH so much and when there is excessive amount of OH- in the
blood it is consumed by H2CO3 as it will release the H + ions upon excess amount of OH - in the blood
forming H2O.
Proportion of carbonic acid and hydrogen carbonate is also very much important in blood. Carbonic acid
concentration is controlled by respiration through lungs while hydrogen carbonate concentration is
controlled by urination through kidneys.
Carbonic acid buffer system is a critical buffer for blood as in the absence of this buffer system the pH
may fall below this normal value within blood producing a condition a condition called acidosis ( acidosis
may be respiratory or metabolic acidosis) or the pH may rise above normal level producing a condition
known as alkalosis (alkalosis may be respiratory or metabolic acidosis).
As most of the metabolic activities in the human body release acidic materials in the blood so to control
acidic conditions the much higher concentration of hydrogen carbonate ion than carbonic acid in blood
should be present as acidic materials will react with hydrogen carbonate to produce weak acid called
carbonic acid that does not alter the pH of the blood to great extent.
Phosphate buffer (Buffering of internal cell fluids)


The phosphate buffer system works in the internal fluid of all cells. This buffer system consists of
dihydrogen phosphate ions (H2PO4-) as a weak acid and hydrogen phosphate ions (HPO 42-) as a
conjugate base of weak acid. These two ions are in equilibrium with each other as indicated by the
chemical equation below.
H2PO4- H+ + HPO42If additional hydrogen ions enter the cellular fluid, they are consumed in the reaction with HPO 42-, and the
equilibrium shifts to the left. If additional hydroxide ions enter the cellular fluid, they react with H 2PO4-,
producing HPO42-, and shifting the equilibrium to the right. In the absence of phosphate buffer from cell
fluid, sharp changes in pH of cell fluids may cause cell death or improper working of different proteins and
cell organelles present within the cell.

Protein buffer (Buffering in Cells and Tissues)

Proteins are mainly composed of amino acids. These amino acids contain functional groups that act as
weak acid and bases when there are sharp changes in pH in order to stabilize the pH within the body
cells. In short it can be said that proteins act as buffers themselves. Protein is a significant buffer the main
buffering site for protein is cells and tissues but even in blood it act as a buffer consuming hydrogen ions
producing due to the dissociation of the carbonic acid into hydrogen bicarbonate. To understand the

proteins as a buffer we have to look into the structure of amino acids which consists of
carboxyl group (COOH)

amino group (NH2)

hydrogen atom

R group
From the above four groups COOH and NH2 act as buffer systems for acidic and basic conditions.

At a near neutral pH, like the pH of blood, the carboxyl group is actually COO - instead of COOH. Then, if
a protein finds itself in a more acidic solution, the carboxyl group will be able to take on the extra
hydrogen ions and return to the COOH configuration.
At a near neutral pH, like in blood, the amino group is actually NH 3+ rather than just NH2. It actually tends
to carry an extra hydrogen ion on it at a normal pH. Then, if a protein finds itself in a more basic
environment, its amino groups on its amino acids can actually release their hydrogen ions and return to
NH2. As all cells and tissues are composed of proteins mainly so in the absence of protein buffer the
sharp changes in pH may cause cell death or tissue damage of a living organisms.

Importance of buffers in industries:

Buffers are of prime importance in different kind of industrial processes especially in pharmaceuticals,
fermentation/food and textile dyeing industries. It also finds its role in many other industries as described


Importance of buffers in Pharmaceuticals Industries:

Most of the medicines are prepared in aqueous solution of different chemicals so these aqueous solutions
require a constant pH in order to assure the stability and clinical effectiveness of a medicines and this is
done through buffers. Buffers are also added in pharmaceuticals to improve patient comfort and to make
longer transportation of medicines possible. Apart from this buffers are also used to:

Maintain some drug or medicine in ionized form as ionized forms are more soluble in aqueous

Maintain some drug or medicine in un-ionized form as un-ionized forms are more soluble in lipids.

Maintain the stability of drugs in different aqueous solutions as many drugs are vulnerable to hydrolysis
of aqueous solutions.

Maintain the pH of most of the drugs or medicine near to neutral otherwise that specific drug or
medicine may cause irritation in body tissues.


Importance of buffers in fermentation and food industry:

Each fermentation process requires a specific pH for the best results. The pH during a fermentation
process changes by itself due to fermentation process so to control this pH change buffers play an
important role. During fermentation of baking bread the pH of the dough will decrease due to released
carbon dioxide and other organic acids. In dough flour and milk act as buffering agents and they resist the
pH drop due to the release of carbon dioxide. Apart from these natural buffers some chemical buffers like
calcium carbonate are also used to maintain pH during fermentation process.
Buffers are also used in foods to maintain the acidity of the food in order to preserve the flavor and
appearance of food. Buffers maintain the physical, chemical and microbiological stability of foods. Actually
food additives act as buffers usually consist of metal salts and weak acids found naturally within the food

to be preserved. For example, the addition of sodium citrate to a food containing citric acid will create a
buffer solution.

Importance of buffers in dyeing industry:

Dyes in textile industries play an important role in giving color to different fabrics. Color strength of dyes is
closely related to narrow pH range which is maintained by using different buffer systems. pH above or
below this narrow range will affect the color imparting ability of different dyes.


Importance of buffers in other miscellaneous industries:

Buffers of different types are majorly used in above explained three types of industries. However, buffers
also play an important role in:

Printing industries as pH of paper and inks must be controlled to assure proper penetration and
drying of the ink.

Electroplating industries as some alloys can be plated if very strict pH control is maintained.

Leather industries as narrow range of pH control of tanning and dyeing baths determine the texture
and color of the finished product.

Glue and gelatin manufacturing industries as properties of gelatin and glue vary rapidly with a very
slight change in pH during manufacture.


Importance of buffers in nature:

Buffers are critical to different kinds of natural systems like water and soil systems.


Buffering in water bodies:

Water bodies like lakes, streams, rivers are important habitat for aquatic life forms like fish and
amphibians. Like all other living organisms aquatic life also need stable pH to survive in the water bodies.
But there are many external factors which tend to destabilize the pH of water bodies making them unfit for
the survival of aquatic life forms. One of the major threats that play its part to disturb the pH of water is
acid rain. We all know that acid rain is produced due to the mixing of coming down rain water with
atmospheric sulphur dioxide to form sulphuric acid. The amount of basic buffer solutions in the water is
termed the "alkalinity" of the water. When the pH of a specific water body drops down due to the addition
of acidic water in the form of acid rain the basic buffer solutions like dissolved CaCO 3 react with acidic
water to neutralize its effects. In this way the pH of water bodies is maintained which is necessary for the
survival of aquatic species. Otherwise extreme pH like 2 or 13 may cause physical damage to gills,
exoskeleton and fins of fish. Apart from this a decreased pH in water increases the dissolved mercury
content in water and an increased pH causes the production of toxic ammonia in water bodies.
Sources of basic buffer solutions or materials to the water bodies may include


Soils in the surrounding areas

Mineral and rocks in the surrounding of water body

Buffering in soils:

Like water bodies pH also plays a critical role in soils also since plants grow best within a narrow pH
range. Acidification of the soils (like in water bodies) is a serious problem rather than alkaline condition of
soils that is a rare phenomenon. Type of buffers that may be present in soil depends on its organic and
mineral content or we can say that mineral and organic content act as buffers in soil. More threatening to
most of the soils is acid rain as acid rain fall on soil it will neutralize its effects if the minerals like limestone
and calcite are present in the soil.
It is important to maintain the pH of soil as it is critical to the health of vegetation and soil microorganisms
as soil act as a habitat for microorganisms and it also provides nutrients beneficial to growth of different
crops and vegetation. When acid rain passes through the soil, the acidic water dissolves most of the crop
beneficial nutrients from soil and leached them away. Similarly bacteria residing in soil also cannot
tolerate the decrease in pH of soil due to acid rain so the most of the beneficial bacteria that take part in
the process of nitrogen fixation and nitrification and breakdown of beneficial organic matter.
4. Importance of buffers in other systems:

In bacteriological research culture media are generally buffered to maintain the pH as bacteria required
a constant pH all the time to grow.

Most of the chemical reactions are pH dependant so in order to occur these reactions properly a narrow
range of pH is maintained by adding buffer system.

Many physio-chemical processes like cause acidification in water bodies and other systems as
described earlier so in order to tackle the effects of physio-chemical processes buffer systems are
required. Physio-chemical processes may include acidification through atmospheric CO 2, atmospheric
acid deposition, cation uptake and proton exchange, basification by partial soluble carbonates etc.

Determine, using indicators, the PH value of common household items

Class discussions (pools, acid rain, soil chemistry, cosmetics, soaps, etc.)