How Do Acids and Bases Relate to Water Testing? 

Acids and bases are special kinds of chemical compounds that have a specific effect on other substances. Some of these substances are strong and can change the structure of proteins. They also have corrosive effects on metals and organic matter. They are used in a variety of industries. 

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When acids and bases come into contact with each other they react to form water (H2O) and salt. Scientists use this reaction to test the pH of a liquid. A pH is a number from 0 to 14 and a lower value means that the liquid is more acidic. A higher value means that the liquid is more basic. 

If a liquid has a low pH, it is very acidic and can cause serious harm. If the liquid has a high pH, it is very basic and can be helpful in laboratory experiments. 

A good example of the difference between acids and bases is the reaction of red and blue litmus paper. The acid, ammonia, turn the paper red, while the base, baking soda, turns it blue. 

The Arrhenius Theory of Acids and Bases

In 1884 Svante Arrhenius proposed a new way to think about acids and bases. His theory suggested that acids are substances that ionize to give hydrogen ions in solution. 

This theory made it easier to see how acid and base properties related to one another. It also made it easier to explain why all acids have similar properties, and why all bases have the same properties. 

Arrhenius and other scientists developed other theories for understanding the relationship between acids and bases. These theories came from the fact that many of these substances dissociate in water to give ions. 

For instance, hydrochloric acid dissociates in water to give hydrogen ions and chloride ions as shown above. This reaction is reversible and is therefore a good model of how acids and bases interact in aqueous solutions. 

However, this theory failed to explain why some chemicals that do not contain hydroxide ions can make alkaline solutions in water, such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH). The Bronsted-Lowry Definition of Acids and Bases successfully solves this problem by explaining that some nonmetal hydrides dissociate in water to form a molecule with both hydrogen and hydroxyl ions. 

Arrhenius’s Theory of Acids and Bases

The Arrhenius theory of acids and bases is a much better way to understand the relationship between acids and bases than the Liebig or Lowry-Bronsted definitions. It makes sense of the way in which acids and bases act in aqueous solutions and why they are often compared to each other in terms of their neutralization abilities. 

Arrhenius’s theory also allows us to test the pH of a liquid in a simple manner using a lab test for acids and bases. To determine the pH of a liquid, we dissolve it in water and then test it to see if the concentration of H+ or OH- ions increases. 

In addition, it is possible to get a more accurate picture of the acid-base relationship by using buffers that can neutralize acids and bases. In most natural waters, for example, septic tanks and wastewater treatment ponds tend to have a pH near 7. The presence of certain buffers helps to keep the environment at a stable level of acidity or basicity.