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Combined or Mixed Equilibria of Cu²⁺

  • Page ID
  • Chemical Concept Demonstrated

    • Complex-formation equilibrium


    Each of the dishes contain Cu 2+ ion solution.
    • Aqueous ammonia is added dropwise into the first dish.
    • Excess ammonia is added into the first dish.


    A precipitate forms as the ammonia is added dropwise into the dish. Additional ammonia causes the precipitate to dissolve and a dark-blue solution is formed.

    Explanations (including important chemical equations)

    A light-blue colored precipitate of Cu(OH)2 is formed when aqueous ammonia is added to Cu 2+ ion solution.

    Cu 2+ (aq) + 2 (OH)- (aq) <=> Cu(OH)2 (s) Ksp = 2.2 x 10-20

    In the presence of excess NH3, this equilibrium shifts to the left as the free Cu 2+ ion is sequestered from the solution as the Cu(NH3)4 2+ complex ion.

    Cu 2+ (aq) + 4 NH3 (aq) <=> Cu(NH3)4 2+ (aq) Ksp = 2.1 x 1013

    The intensity of the absorption of light by the Cu(NH3)4 2+ complex appears to be orders of magnitude greater than the corresponding Cu(H2O)6 2+ complex. The molar absorbances of these complexes, however, differ, roughly, only by a factor of four. The difference between the intensities of the colors of these complexes can be explained by noting that the maximum wavelength for the Cu(H2O)6 2+ complex is about 800 nm, whereas the maximum wavelength for the Cu(NH3)42+ complex occurs at about 600 nm. Since a larger portion of the absorption in the Cu(NH3)4 2+ complex is in the visible portion of the spectrum, the color appears considerably more intense.


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