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Predicting the Direction of Acid/Base Reactions

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  • The ability to predict the outcomes of acid-base reactions, which are very common in chemistry, is extremely beneficial. Many different things can change the outcome of an acid-base reaction including heat and pressure. Knowing the K(acid dissociation constant) and the K(base association constant) is the best way to predict the direction of an Acid-Base Reaction.


    Given the reaction:


      OH- CH3CH2SH
    Ka 2.5x10-29 6.8x10-6   
    Kb 1.5x10-4    2.7x10-22    

    Using the Ka and Kb values, one can predict which molecule will act as the acid in this reaction and which molecule will act as the base.  For OH- the Ka is extremely small in relation to Kb, so it will act as a base in this reaction.  For CH3CH2SH, the Kb is extremely small in relation to Ka so CH3CH2SH will act like an acid.



    For problems 1 through 3:

    In which direction will an acid-base reaction move, given the following factor?

    1.  K is Big

    2.  K is Small

    3.  K=Q

    (For extra review, check out the ChemWiki page on K and Q here!)

    For problems 4-6:

    Given the following information, finish the equation and determine the acid and the base

    4.        NaOH          +          HCl   ⇔  ?   +   ?

      NaOH   HCl
    Ka 2.5x10-20  6.8x10-7
    Kb  1.5x10-2    2.7x10-27

    5.        H2O           +           HCl      ⇔   ?   +   ?

        H2O     HCl
    Ka 3.5x10-26      1.8x10-4
    Kb  7.5x10-25    9.7x10-24   

    6.       H2O           +         HC2H3O2  ⇔  ?   +   ?

      H2O      HC2H3O2
    Ka 5.5x10-10        3.4x10-3
    Kb  5.3x10-10      7.2x10-19



    1. Reaction goes towards products (to the right)
    2. Reaction goes towards reactants (to the left)
    3. Reaction stays the same
    4.  Products:  H2O + NaCl
      1. NaOH is the Base
      2. HCl is the Acid
    5. Products: H3O+ + Cl-
      1. H2O is the Base
      2. HCl is the Acid
    6. 6.  Products: H3O+ + C2H3O2-
      1. H2O is the Base
      2. HC2H3O2 is the Acid


    1. Mortimer, Charles E. Chemistry a Conceptual Approach. 2nd ed. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1971. Print.
    2. Keenan, Charles W., and Jesse H. Wood. General College Chemistry. 4th ed. New York: Haper and Row, 1971. Print.


    • Ryan Benoit (UCD)
    • Dakota Miller (SWCC)