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Difference between Base and Alkali

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Last updated date: 24th Jul 2024
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What is Base and Alkali: Introduction

Bases and alkalis are essential chemical substances that play significant roles in our everyday lives. 


Base: In chemistry, a base is a substance that can accept protons (H+) or donate pairs of electrons. Bases are commonly classified into two categories: hydroxide bases and non-hydroxide bases. Hydroxide bases contain the hydroxide ion (OH-), while non-hydroxide bases do not. 


Alkali: Alkalis are a subset of bases that specifically refer to water-soluble bases. Alkalis are typically ionic compounds that release hydroxide ions (OH-) when dissolved in water.


Let's Explore the Concepts of Base and Alkali through a Real-life Example. 

Imagine you're cleaning your kitchen and encountering a stubborn grease stain on your stovetop. To effectively remove it, you reach for a common household cleaning agent: oven cleaner. Oven cleaners are known for their strong cleaning power, and their effectiveness can be attributed to the presence of bases and alkalis. 


In this scenario, the base in the oven cleaner acts as a powerful cleaning agent. 


Bases have the ability to break down and dissolve greasy substances due to their alkaline nature. The most commonly used base in oven cleaners is sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as caustic soda or lye. Sodium hydroxide is a highly soluble compound that releases hydroxide ions (OH-) when dissolved in water, making it an alkali. 


The hydroxide ions in the alkali interact with the grease molecules on your stovetop, causing a chemical reaction known as saponification. 


Saponification involves the conversion of fats or oils into soap, which is water-soluble and can be easily rinsed away. The alkali helps to emulsify and dissolve the grease, allowing for effective cleaning and stain removal. 


This real-life example highlights the practical application of bases and alkalis in everyday cleaning tasks. Bases and alkalis are commonly used in various cleaning agents, detergents, and degreasers due to their ability to neutralize acids and dissolve organic substances. They are also employed in industrial processes, such as wastewater treatment and manufacturing, where their alkaline properties are utilized to adjust pH levels, remove impurities, and facilitate chemical reactions. 


By understanding the properties and applications of bases and alkalis, we can effectively tackle cleaning challenges, maintain cleanliness in our surroundings, and utilize their chemical properties for numerous purposes.


Characteristics of Base and Alkali

Characteristics of Base: 

Definition: Bases can accept protons (H+) or donate pairs of electrons to other substances. 


pH Level: Bases have pH values greater than 7 on the pH scale, indicating their alkaline nature. 


Examples: Common examples of bases include sodium hydroxide (NaOH), potassium hydroxide (KOH), and ammonia (NH3). 


Alkali vs. Non-Alkali: While alkalis are a subset of bases, not all bases are alkalis. Alkalis specifically refer to bases that are soluble in water. 


Characteristics of Alkali:

Definition: Alkalis are bases that are soluble in water and release hydroxide ions (OH-) when dissolved. 


pH Level: Alkalis have pH values greater than 7, indicating their alkaline nature. 


Solubility: Alkalis readily dissolves in water to form a basic solution. 


Examples: Common examples of alkalis include sodium hydroxide (NaOH), potassium hydroxide (KOH), and calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2).


Applications of Bases and Alkali

Bases and alkalis find extensive applications in various real-life scenarios due to their unique properties. Let's explore some common examples of how bases and alkalis are used in practical situations: 


Household Cleaning Products: Bases and alkalis are key ingredients in many household cleaning products. They help remove stubborn stains, grease, and dirt. Alkalis such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and potassium hydroxide (KOH) are commonly found in oven cleaners, drain cleaners, and degreasers. 


Personal Care Products: Bases and alkalis are utilized in personal care items like soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste. They help in cleaning, emulsifying oils, and maintaining the desired pH level. Sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are commonly used in soap-making processes. 


Agriculture: Bases and alkalis are used in agriculture to adjust soil pH levels. By adding substances like lime (calcium hydroxide) or potassium hydroxide, farmers can neutralize acidic soils and create optimal conditions for plant growth. 


Water Treatment: Alkalis are employed in water treatment processes to adjust pH levels and neutralize acidic water. Sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide is added to raise the pH and prevent corrosion in pipes and equipment. 


Manufacturing Processes: Bases and alkalis play crucial roles in various manufacturing processes. They are used in the production of chemicals, dyes, and pharmaceuticals. Additionally, alkalis are utilized in the pulp and paper industry for pulp delignification. 


Food Industry: Bases and alkalis are used in food processing and preparation. Sodium hydroxide is employed in the preparation of olives and pretzels, while potassium hydroxide is used in cocoa processing. Additionally, alkalis are utilized in the production of various food additives and preservatives. 


Metal Cleaning and Etching: Bases such as sodium hydroxide are employed in metal cleaning and etching processes. They help remove oxidation, rust, and contaminants from metal surfaces, preparing them for further treatment or coating. 


Difference between Bases and Alkali

Sr. No. 

Characteristics 

Base

Alkali

1

Definition

A substance that accepts or donates a pair of electrons (proton acceptor) and has a pH greater than 7

A type of base that dissolves in water, releasing hydroxide ions (OH-) and has a pH greater than 7



2

Ionization in Water

May or may not dissolve in water

Dissolves in water, forming hydroxide ions 

3

Examples

Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), Ammonia (NH3), Calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2)

Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), Potassium hydroxide (KOH)

4

Acid-Base Reaction

Reacts with acids to form salts and water

Reacts with acids to form salts and water 

5

Source

Can be obtained naturally or synthesized chemically

Generally synthesized chemically

6

pH Range

Greater than 7 (basic)

Greater than 7 (basic)

7

Common Applications

Household cleaning products, personal care items, agriculture, water treatment, manufacturing processes

Similar to bases, with additional applications in food industry and pharmaceuticals


Summary

Base and alkali are related terms in chemistry, but they have distinct characteristics. A base is a substance that accepts or donates a pair of electrons and has a pH greater than 7. It can be soluble or insoluble in water. On the other hand, an alkali is a type of base that dissolves in water, releasing hydroxide ions (OH-), and also has a pH greater than 7. Bases and alkalis have various real-life applications in industries such as cleaning, agriculture, water treatment, and manufacturing. They play important roles in household products, personal care items, food processing, pharmaceuticals, and more.

FAQs on Difference between Base and Alkali

1. What is the difference between a base and an alkali? 

A base is a substance that accepts or donates a pair of electrons (proton acceptor) and has a pH greater than 7. It may or may not dissolve in water. On the other hand, an alkali is a type of base that dissolves in water, releasing hydroxide ions (OH-), and also has a pH greater than 7. 

2. What are some examples of bases and alkalis? 

Examples of bases include sodium hydroxide (NaOH), ammonia (NH3), and calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2). Alkalis, which are a specific type of base that dissolves in water, include substances such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and potassium hydroxide (KOH). 

3. How are bases and alkalis used in real-life applications? 

Bases and alkalis have a wide range of real-life applications. Bases are commonly used in household cleaning products, personal care items, agriculture, water treatment, and various manufacturing processes. Alkalis, with their ability to dissolve in water, find applications in similar areas, but also have specific uses in the food industry and pharmaceuticals, where their alkaline properties are beneficial for certain processes and formulations.