16. Ions and Equilibrium;
       Acids and Bases
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       The Meaning of Acids and Bases

The foregoing is the most useful everyday definition of acids and bases, applicable to aqueous solution. The Bronsted-Lowry theory goes one step further, and frees us from a dependence on water as a solvent. It also is helpful in explaining the difference between strong and weak acids.

According to Bronsted and Lowry, an acid is any substance that releases protons in solution, and a base is any substance that combines with protons and removes them from solution.

Thus in the dissociation of HCl, HCl = H+ + Cl-, the molecule of HCl is a B-L (Bronsted-Lowry) acid because it can release a proton, and the Cl- ion is a B-L base because it can combine with a proton. HCl and Cl- are called a conjugate acid-base pair (see diagram on previous page). In the two-proton dissociation of sulfuric acid,

the bisulfate ion, HSO4-, is the conjugate base of the B-L acid H2SO4, and at the same time is the conjugate acid of the B-L base SO2-. The words "acid" and "base" in the Bronsted-Lowry theory do not describe what a molecule is, but rather what it does.

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