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Bronsted-Lowry Definition of Acids and Bases

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Acids and Bases

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Bronsted-Lowry Definition of Acids and Bases


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You will discover the world of chemistry through laboratory simulations, exploring the basic properties of acids and bases, and learning how to name them as well as identify acid-base reactions.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Define acid and base according to the Brønsted-Lowry definition.
  • Label the conjugated acid and base in a chemical reaction.
  • Indicate the deficiencies of the Brønsted-Lowry definition of acids and bases.

Everything You'll Have Covered

How did Bronsted and Lowry define acids and bases? What is the difference between their definition and Arrhenius' definition?

~ According to Bronsted and Lowry, acids are substances that donate hydrogen ions and bases are substances that accept hydrogen ions. Because a hydrogen ion is a single proton, another way of stating the Bronsted-Lowry definition of acids and bases is to say that acids donate protons and bases accept protons. The Arrhenius definition is that an acid produces hydrogen ions and a base produces hydroxide ions. The Bronsted-Lowry definition of acids and bases incorporates Arrhenius' earlier definition, but it also defines the acidic and basic properties of some substances that Arrhenius could not, such as ammonia.

Define conjugate pairs and give an example.

~ Conjugate pairs are acid-base pairs that change form depending on their acceptance or donation of protons. For example, ammonia and ammonium are conjugate pairs. Ammonia (NH3) is a base because it can accept a proton. When NH3 accepts a proton, it becomes an ammonium ion (NH4+). The ammonium ion, however, can donate a proton, which makes it an acid.

What is an amphoteric substance?

~ An amphoteric substance is a substance, such as water, that can act as either an acid or a base, depending on the reaction.

What are three problems with the Bronsted-Lowry definition of acids and bases?

~ The following are three problems with the Bronsted-Lowry definition of acids and bases:

1.      It can determine the acidic and basic properties of substances only when those substances contain hydrogen.

2.      It fails to explain reactions in solvents that don't contain hydrogen.

3.      It cannot explain reactions between acidic oxides and basic oxides.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 2 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Students should be able to define the following terms: acid, ammonia, and ammonium ion.
Course Chemistry
Type of Tutorial Animation
Key Vocabulary acid, ammonia, ammonium ion