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Ionization Constants

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    • Acid and Base Strength
      All acids and bases do not ionize or dissociate to the same extent. This leads to the statement that acids and bases are not all of equal strength in producing H+ and OH- ions in solution. The terms "strong" and "weak" give an indication of the strength of an acid or base. The terms strong and weak describe the ability of acid and base solutions to conduct electricity. If the acid or base conducts electricity strongly, it is a strong acid or base.
    • Calculating a Ka Value from a Known pH
      The quantity pH, or "power of hydrogen," is a numerical representation of the acidity or basicity of a solution. It can be used to calculate the concentration of hydrogen ions [H+] or hydronium ions [H3O+] in an aqueous solution. Solutions with low pH are the most acidic, and solutions with high pH are most basic.
    • Calculating Equilibrium Concentrations
      \(K_a\) is an acid dissociation constant, also known as the acid ionization constant. It describes the likelihood of the compounds and the ions to break apart from each other. As we already know, strong acids completely dissociate, whereas weak acids only partially dissociate.  A big \(K_a\) value will indicate that you are dealing with a very strong acid and that it will completely dissociate into ions.
    • Fundamentals of Ionization Constants
      A simple way to understand an ionization constant is to think of it in a clear-cut way: To what degree will a substance produce ions in water? In other words, to what extent will ions be formed?
    • Weak Acids and Bases
      Unlike strong acids/bases, weak acids and weak bases do not completely dissociate (separate into ions) at equilibrium in water, so calculating the pH of these solutions requires consideration of a unique ionization constant and equilibrium concentrations. Although this is more difficult than calculating the pH of a strong acid or base solution, most biochemically important acids and bases are considered weak, and so it is very useful to understand how to calculate the pH of these substances.
    • Weak Acids and Bases
      Weak acids and bases are only partially ionized in their solutions, whereas strong acids and bases are completely ionized when dissolved in water. The ionization of weak acids and bases is a chemical equilibrium phenomenon. The equilibrium principles are essential for the understanding of equilibria of weak acids and weak bases. In this connection, you probably realize that conjugate acids of weak bases are weak acids and conjugate bases of weak acids are weak bases.

    Thumbnail: Variation of the % formation of a monoprotic acid, AH, and its conjugate base, A−, with the difference between the pH and the pKa of the acid. (Public Domain; Krishnavedala).

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