Ionization of Acids and Bases

Dhristi JEE 2022-24

Introduction to Ionization

The ionization of a compound can be explained as a process where a neutral molecule splits into charged ions when exposed to a solution.


Arrhenius's theory says that acids are the compounds that are dissociated in an aqueous medium to generate hydrogen ions, H+(aq). On the other side, bases are the compounds that furnish hydroxyl ions, OH-(aq) in an aqueous solution or medium.


Let us look at the difference between ionization and dissociation.


The primary difference between dissociation and ionization or is, dissociation is the process of separating the charged particles which already exist in the compound, on the other side, ionization is the formation of new charged particles, which are not present in the previous compound.


Arrhenius Theory

Arrhenius theory plays a major role in explaining the ionization of acids and bases because mostly ionization occurs in an aqueous medium. Based on the degree of ionization of acids and bases, we can define the strength of both acids and bases. Also, the degree of ionization differs for different compounds of acidic and basic. A few acids, such as hydrochloric acid (HCl), perchloric acid (HClO4), completely dissociate into their constituent ions in an aqueous medium.


All these acids are referred to as strong acids. Ionization of acids produces hydrogen ions, and therefore, these compounds act as proton donors. In the same way, a few bases such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH), lithium hydroxide (LiOH) too dissociate completely into their ions in an aqueous solution or medium. These bases are referred to as strong bases. The ionization of these bases produces hydroxyl ions (OH-).


Therefore, the ionization degree of acids and bases depends on the degree of dissociation of compounds into their constituent ions. The strong acids and bases have a high degree of ionization when compared to the ionization of weak acid and base. Also, a strong acid implies a good proton donor, whereas a strong base implies a good proton acceptor - for example, dissociation of weak acid HA.


HA(aq) + H2O(l) ⇌ H3O + (aq) + A-(aq)


Explanation

Let us look at the Arrhenius Theory explanation in brief.

This reaction indicates that acid dissociation equilibrium is dynamic in nature, where the transfer of protons can occur in both forward and backward directions. If HA has a higher tendency to donate a proton compared to that of H3O+, HA acts as a strong acid in comparison to the H3O+ ion. Because the stronger acid donates a proton to the stronger base, the equilibrium moves towards the direction of a formation of a weaker acid and base.


Generally, the strong acids have weaker conjugate bases, whereas the strong bases have weaker conjugate acids. This is due to the high degree of ionization of strong acids and bases.


Ionization of a Compound

Bases are the compounds that furnish the hydroxyl ions and OH- present in the aqueous medium. The degree of ionization of both acids and bases helps to determine its strength. Based on different acidic and basic compounds, the degree of ionization can differ.


Ionization of Acids and Bases

The process by which a neutral molecule breaks down into charged ions when exposed to a solution is known as compound ionization. According to  Arrhenius theory, an acid is a compound that dissociates in an aqueous medium to produce the hydrogen ion H+ in the aqueous medium. 


  • Ionization of Acids

The Ionisation degree refers to the strength of either an acid or a base. A strong acid is said to ionize in water completely, whereas a weak acid is said to ionize only partially. Because there are various degrees of acid’s ionization, there also exists various levels of weakness, where there exists a simple quantitative way to express.


Since the weak acid ionization is an equilibrium, the equilibrium constant expression and the chemical equation can be stated as follows:


HA(aq) + H2O(l) ⇌ H3O + (aq) + A-


\[Ka = \frac{[H_{3}O^{+}][A^{-}]}{HA}\]


An equilibrium constant for the ionization of an acid describes its Acid Ionization Constant (Ka). However, the stronger the acid, the acid ionization constant (Ka) will be larger. It means that a strong acid is a donor of a better proton. Because of the result of the product concentration in the numerator of the ionization constant (Ka), the stronger the acid, the larger is the acid Ka.


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The degree of ionization depends on the strength of the acid or base. Strong acids are considered to be fully ionized in water, while weak acids are only partially ionized. Since the degree of acid ionization is different, the degree of weakness is also different, and there is a simple quantitative formula.


Since the ionization of weak acids is equilibrium, the chemical equation and equilibrium constant equation is as follows. 


HA (aq) + H2O (l) ⇌ H3O + (aq) + A


\[Ka = \frac{[H_{3}O^{+}][A^{-}]}{HA}\]


The equilibrium constant for acid ionization is the acid ionization constant. Define (Ka). However, the stronger the acid, the higher the acid ionization constant (Ka). This means that strong acids are better proton donors. Depending on the concentration of the product in the Ka molecule, the following applies: The stronger the acid, the larger the acid ionization constant (Ka). 


  • Ionization of Bases or Base Ionization

A few bases such as sodium hydroxide or lithium hydroxide get completely dissociated into their ions in an aqueous solution, which is referred to as the strong bases. Thus, these bases’ ionization yields hydrochloric ions, as (OH-). One of the same expressions for the bases is given as follows:


A + H2O ⇌ OH- + HA+


\[Kb = \frac{[OH^{-}] [HA^{+}]}{A}\]


The base ionization constant, that is, Kb is referred to as an equilibrium constant for the ionization of a base. Thus, we can say that a strong base implies a good proton acceptor, whereas a strong acid implies a good proton donor. The dissociation of either weak acids or weak bases in water can be given as follows.


CH3COOH + H2O CH3COO- + H3O+


NH3 + H2O NH4+ (aq) + OH- (aq)


Some bases, such as lithium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide, are completely dissociated into ions in an aqueous medium called a strong base. Therefore, the ionization of these bases produces hydrogen chloride ions, such as (OH-). A similar formula for a base is: 


A + H2O ⇌OH- + HA + 


\[Kb = \frac{[OH^{-}] [HA^{+}]}{A}\]


The ionization constant of bases, that is, Kb is the ionization of bases. Therefore, it can be said that a strong base means a good proton acceptor and a strong acid means a good proton donor. The dissociation of weak acids or  bases in water is as follows: 


CH3COOH + H2O⇌CH3COO ~ + H3O +


NH3 + H2O⇌NH4 + (aq) + OH ~ (aq)


Bases are compounds that provide hydroxyl ions, while OH- is contained in aqueous media. The degree of acid and base ionization determines their strength. Due to the difference between acidic and basic compounds, the degree of ionization may differ. 


Degree of Ionization

The ionization degree is also called an ionization yield, which refers to the proportion of neutral particles, like those in aqueous or gaseous solutions, which are ionized to the charged particles. For electrolytes, it could be understood as the capacity of either acid or base to ionize itself. A low ionization degree is at times referred to as partially or weakly ionized, and a high degree of ionization as fully ionized. But, a fully ionized degree can also mean that an ion has no electron count left.


Arrhenius Concept of Acid and Base Ionization

According to Arrhenius' theory, an acid is a compound that dissociates in an aqueous medium to produce hydrogen ions. On the other hand, a base is a compound that produces hydroxyl ions in an aqueous medium.  Arrhenius's theory is very important in explaining the ionization of acids and bases. This is because ionization usually occurs in aqueous media. The strength of an acid and a base can be determined by the degree of ionization of the acid and the base.


The degree of ionization depends on the acidic and basic compounds. Some acids, such as perchloric acid and hydrochloric acid, are completely dissociated into ions in an aqueous medium. These bases are called strong bases. Ionization of these bases yields hydroxyl ions. Therefore, the degree of acid-base ionization depends on the degree of dissociation of the compound at ions. Strong acids and strong bases have a higher degree of ionization than weak acids and weak bases.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. List out some most common strong bases 

Some of the most common strong bases are- Lithium hydroxide, Sodium hydroxide, Potassium hydroxide, rubidium hydroxide, Cesium hydroxide, Calcium hydroxide, strontium hydroxide, barium hydroxide. 

2. What do you understand about Base ionization? 

Some bases, such as lithium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide, are completely dissociated into ions in an aqueous medium called a strong base. Therefore, the ionization of these bases produces hydrogen chloride ions, such as (OH-). 

3. What do you understand about acid ionization?

The degree of ionization depends on the strength of the acid or base. Strong acids are considered to be fully ionized in water, while weak acids are only partially ionized. Since the degree of acid ionization is different, the degree of weakness is also different. 

4. What are the bad qualities of acids and bases?

Do not taste or touch chemicals as both acids and bases can be corrosive. You may get burned from acids and bases. Acids are sourer and feel dry or convergent, while bases are bitter and feel slippery or soapy. 

5. What are a few well-known strong acids?

Hydrochloric Acid, Sulfuric Acid, Nitric Acid, Carbonic Acid, Formic Acid, Citric Acid, Acetylsalicylic Acid. 

6. What are Acids and Bases?

Acids are very sour in taste. An example of acids can be given as orange juice, lemon juice. Lemon and the other citrus fruits have acetic acid. So anything which is sour in taste can be said as an acid.


Bases are much bitter in taste. An example of bases can be given as soap (made of magnesium hydroxide or potassium salts). So, anything that is bitter in taste is a base.


If you come to know what pH is, how it is used, then the acids contain pH between 0 - < 7 (pH 7, means neutral), and the basis has pH value ranging from 7 to 14.


Scientifically, acids are the chemicals that release H+ ions or protons, whereas the base is the chemicals that take up the H+ ions.

7. Why are Laundry Detergents Prepared Out of Strong Bases Instead of Strong Acids?

In general, most laundry detergents are a mixture of sodium salts of strong acids like sodium alkylbenzene sulfonate and of non-ionic surfactants. Only the surfactants that are basic are of fatty acid soaps. These surfactants are basic due to polar carboxylate end groups being weak acids. The weak acid’s salt is basic, although it is not classified this class of surfactants as a strong base.


Still, fatty acid soaps are never used almost in laundry detergents, not at least in the developed world. At the same time, the fatty acid soaps are significantly cheaper than that of the other surfactants. Hence, in developing countries, you can still find laundry detergents using fatty acid soaps. However, such type of laundry detergents is far inferior to the laundry detergents, which are widely available in the developed world.

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