Monday, 14 October 2019

Getting to know Acids and Bases

What causes the reaction between acids and bases?  What makes a substance acidic or basic? If these are the types of questions troubling your mind, worry not! Here is a look into the basics of acids and bases to build a foundation on.

Defining acids and bases

Almost every liquid displays either acidic or basic qualities. Acids generally release hydrogen ions whereas bases generally release hydroxide ions. Think of it this way – most molecules have 2 or more atoms which have agreed on a deal to share their electrons. Some atoms tend to break the deal, steal the electron for themselves and kick out the poor hydrogen atom having no electrons to its name (Hydrogen ion). These electron stealing members are mostly found in the p block elements of the periodic table. Some elements don’t like electrons and give them away, resulting in Oxygen escaping with the extra electron with a Hydrogen atom as its accomplice (Hydroxide).

Identifying acids and bases in our daily lives

Acids generally have a sour taste.The pH scale is something scientists came up with to measure the acidity or basicity of a substance. It ranges from 1 to 14 where 7 is the middle ground or the neutral mark. Anything with a pH below 7 is acidic whereas anything above the 7 mark is considered basic. Strong acids have a pH below 3 and strong bases have a pH above 10 and these are the ones you want to watch out for! If you’re curious on finding the acids and the bases in your kitchen, you could try buying some litmus paper. Red litmus paper turns blue to the touch of a base and blue litmus paper turns red to the touch of an acid.

What decides the Acidity or Basicity of a substance?

Quite a few factors determine the acidity/basicity of a molecule. Elements from Groups 1&2 of the periodic table tend to donate electrons and hence are found in bases (Sodium, for example). Group 17 elements tend to be more electronegative i.e. they tend to attract electrons. Chlorine is a good example of such an element. The Inductive effect and the resonance effect also determine the acidity/basicity of a substance.

There’s a ton more to learn about acids and bases such as acid-base reactions, the different types of acids and bases, etc. Head over to deepen your understanding!