Most people have heard of acids and bases because it is an important part of the chemical world. When asked what an acid is, most people say it is something that burns. The same can be said about a base. However, there are so many more qualities about acids and bases that the simple ‘burning’ description no longer is efficient enough. In the 17th century, Robert Boyle categorized acids and bases qualitatively. This meant that it was physical characteristics about them rather than chemical or quantitative. Those characteristics that Boyle determined were:

* Acids: When mixed with bases, become less powerful; turn litmus paper red; have a sour taste; corrosive on metals.

* Bases: when mixed with acids, become less powerful; turn litmus paper blue.

As time went on, though, other scientists went deeper when doing research on acids and bases. What one scientists in the 19th century – Svante Arrhenius – was that an acid or base, when mixed with water, would dissociate it and separate the two ions that make up the acid or base. So, the question is…

What are Acids?

Acids are compounds that have a hydrogen ion connected to some other ion. Because the hydrogen ion is a positively charged ion, the opposite ion is a negative charged. One of the most well known acids out there is hydrochloric acid. It’s chemical makeup is: HCl. H(+)Cl(-). The opposite charges attract due to ionic forces and that keeps them together. However, what Arrhenius was suggesting was that, when putting the acid into water, it would split the two of them. It would like this:

HCl -> H(+) + Cl (-) when in water.

In other words, Arrhenius said that mixing HCl with water makes a hydrogen ion and a chlorine ion. He then went on to answer question which is…

What are Bases?

A base is a compound that has a hydroxide ion connected to some other ion. Because the hydroxide ion is negatively charged, the opposite ion is a positively charged ion. One of the most well known bases is sodium hydroxide. It’s chemical makeup is: NaOH. Na(+)OH(-). The reason the hydroxide is negative is because, while the hydrogen has a +1 charge, the oxygen has a -2 charge. Combine those together and you get a -1 charge for the ion. He suggested that, when putting a base in water, it would the two apartment. It would look like this:

NaOH -> Na(+) + OH(-) when in water.

In other words, mixing water with NaOH results in a sodium positively charged ion and a hydroxide negatively charged ion.

How do you Neutralize an Acid or Base?

The above is a form of neutralization because water is amphiprotic. That means that it can have an acidic trait or a basic trait depending on what it is being mixed with. However, another form of neutralization is mixing a strong acid with a strong base. When this occurs, you get a salt and water. Here’s what it looks like:

HCl + NaOH -> H(+) + Cl(-) + Na(+) + OH(-) -> H2O + NaCl.

In other words, hydrochloric acid mixed with sodium hydroxide results in the hydrogen ion breaking off of the chlorine ion simultaneously to the sodium ion breaking off from the chlorine ion. When this happens, the hydrogen ion forms up with a hydrogen This forms water which is two hydrogen and an oxygen. It also forms sodium chloride which is the sodium positive ion and the chlorine negative ion.