Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Unit 10: Acids and Bases—The Voyage of the Proton

Section 1: Introduction

Acids Dissolve Metals

Figure 10-1. Acids Dissolve Metals

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Acids Dissolve Metals

Figure 10-1. Acids Dissolve Metals

When certain air pollutants react in the atmosphere, they create sulfuric and nitric acids. These substances make rain and snow acidic. The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington, DC is made of bronze, an alloy of copper and tin; green streaks in this photograph indicate that acid rain is dissolving copper from the statue.

In previous Units, we've looked at the properties of solutions, the general properties of chemical reactions, and how their molecules often exist in equilibrium between the products and the reactants. In this Unit, we will be looking specifically at a certain kind of equilibrium reaction that occurs specifically in aqueous solutions. This very important type of reaction involves the release of hydrogen ions by a kind of molecule called an "acid."

The behavior of acids and their counterparts, bases, is extremely important in much of chemistry. They can act as catalysts for many important reactions, and they are critically important in the study of biochemistry. They are manufactured and sold in large quantities industrially for use in manufacturing many other materials. Some key characteristics of acids, such as their ability to dissolve many metals, can also cause problems. (Figure 10-1)



A compound that has a proton or protons that can dissociate in water; also, when one molecule has a proton or protons that dissociate more readily than those of another (i.e., it has a higher Ka), the first is said to be the more acidic molecule.


A compound that has the ability to accept a proton or protons from the surrounding solution. When one molecule associates with a proton or protons from the surrounding solution more readily than another, the first is said to be the more basic molecule. A basic compound can also be referred to as "alkaline."


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