Chapter 16: Acids and Bases

Enhanced Introductory College Chemistry

by Gregory Anderson; Caryn Fahey; Jackie MacDonald; Adrienne Richards; Samantha Sullivan Sauer; J.R. van Haarlem; and  David Wegman;

Chapter Contents

Except where otherwise noted, this OER is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Please visit the web version of Enhanced Introductory College Chemistry to access the complete book, interactive activities and ancillary resources.

In this chapter, you will learn about

  • General characteristics and properties of acids and bases.
  • Two models of acids and bases and the relationship between conjugate acid-base pairs.
  • The autoionization of water.
  • pH, pOH and the pH scale.
  • How to calculate pH, pOH, and the acid and base concentration of various solutions.
  • Neutralization reactions and how to do calculations involving strong acids and strong bases.
  • Acid-Base titrations.
  • The general characteristics of buffered solutions.

To better support your learning, you should be familiar with the following concepts before starting this chapter:

  • How to use your scientific calculator including the following functions (buttons): log, 10x, scientific notation.
  • Review double displacement reactions and net ionic equations.
  • Understand concepts relating to ionization/dissociation of salts in solution.
  • Polarity characteristics of water and its molecular equation.
  • Performing molarity calculations of solutions to determine a solution’s concentration.
This is an image of a sinkhole, filled with water and is surrounded by rock forms, bushes and trees.
Figure 16a Sinkhole Shown in Nature: Cenote Angelita is located in the state of Quintana Roo, in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Sinkholes in nature, such as this one, are the result of reactions between acidic groundwaters and basic rock formations, like limestone. (credit: work by Offthebeatonpath, CC BY-SA 3.0)

In our bodies, in our homes, and in our industrial society, acids and bases play key roles. Proteins, enzymes, blood, genetic material, and other components of living matter contain both acids and bases. We seem to like the sour taste of acids; we add them to soft drinks, salad dressings, and spices. Many foods, including citrus fruits and some vegetables, contain acids. Cleaners in our homes contain acids or bases. Acids and bases not only play important roles in the health/medical industry but also in the chemical industry. Huge quantities of sulfuric acid (H2SO), ammonia (NH3), urea (CH4N2O), and phosphoric acid (H3PO4) are released into the atmosphere, globally, every year. In Canada, the production of sulfuric acid is used by industry in the production of phosphate fertilizers, bleaching agents in pulp and paper manufacturing, and waste water processing in sewage treatment plants (Environment and Climate Change Canada, 2022, Sources and uses of sulfuric acid, para. 1). According to National Pollutant Release Inventory Overview by Environment and Climate Change Canada (2022),

“the primary sources of sulfuric acid emissions are manufacturing, coal-fired power plants, petroleum and coal product refining and non-conventional oil extraction (including oil sands). These emissions are mostly to the air, with total air releases of 3485 tonnes in 2020. Electric power facilities, the manufacturing industry and pulp and paper plants discharged a combined 71 tonnes to water in 2020. A combined 16 tonnes of sulfuric acid was released to land from the mining and manufacturing industries. When burned, the sulfur content in fossil fuels is mostly converted into sulfur dioxide (SO2), which can further oxidize into sulfur trioxide (SO3) and then react with water to form sulfuric acid” (Releases of sulfuric acid section, para. 1).
For more information about sulfuric acid release in Canada or other pollution and waste management inventories visit the National Pollutant Release Inventory: tools and resources

Another factor that plays a crucial role in influencing chemical changes in our environment is acid rain. When precipitation from rain, snow, sleet, or hail falls to the earth, it collects acidic particles and gases dissolved in the atmosphere and turns the precipitation more acidic. Not only does acid deposition damage various ecosystems and physical structures, but also has negative health effects on its inhabitants, such as fish, wildlife, and human populations, (Environment And Climate Change Canada, 2018). To reference more about acid rain and its effects in Canada link visit Acid rain: causes and effects.

The history of the acid rain issues and its effects on the environment is a very intriguing phenomenon. Watch Whatever happened to acid rain (5:39).

Video Source: Goffman, J and TED-Ed (2021, Apr 13). Whatever happened to acid rain? [Video]. YouTube.

This chapter will illustrate the chemistry of acid-base reactions and equilibria, and provide you with tools for quantifying the concentrations of acids and bases in solutions.

Attribution & References

Except where otherwise noted, this page is adapted by Jackie MacDonald from “Chapter 14: Introduction” In Chemistry 2e (Open Stax) by Paul Flowers, Klaus Theopold, Richard Langley & William R. Robinson is licensed under CC BY 4.0. Access for free at Chemistry 2e (Open Stax) / Adaptations and additions made to content in this section were made for student comprehension.



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Enhanced Introductory College Chemistry Copyright © 2023 by Gregory Anderson; Caryn Fahey; Jackie MacDonald; Adrienne Richards; Samantha Sullivan Sauer; J.R. van Haarlem; and David Wegman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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