Acidic Solutions: Properties & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nathan Crawford

Nathan, a PhD chemist, has taught chemistry and physical science courses.

Acidic solutions are made by dissolving an acidic compound in water. Learn about the acid solution basics and acid solution properties, and study examples of acid solutions. Updated: 09/16/2021

Acid Solution Basics

What do soft drinks, lemon juice, and your stomach have in common? Although these examples may seem unconnected, they all have a chemical link - they all contain acidic solutions.

All of these contain acidic solutions
All of these contain acidic solutions

In order to understand acidic solutions, we need to define acid. The most widely used definition of acids comes from the Bronsted-Lowry definition of acids and bases. According to Bronsted-Lowry, acids are compounds that donate a hydrogen ion (H^+). For example, hydrochloric acid (HCl) donates its hydrogen to sodium hydroxide (NaOH) to form water and sodium chloride (NaCl).The following is the reaction of hydrochloric acid (HCl) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH).

Reaction of hydrochloric acid (HCl) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH)
Reaction of hydrochloric acid (HCl) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH)

Acid solutions are commonly made through one of two ways. One way involves dissolving a compound in solid form, such as citric acid into water. The other way is to bubble gases, like carbon dioxide (or HCl) through water. In either case, the substance that dissolves in the water is known as the solute. The water that dissolves the solute is known as the solvent.

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Acid Solution Properties

An important measurement that can be made to determine if a solution is acidic is the pH. The pH is a measure of the number of hydrogen ions that are present in the solution. Solutions that are neither acidic nor basic have a pH of 7. Basic solutions have pH values greater than 7, and acidic solutions have pH values below 7. The following table depicts the pH scale with the pH values of common acids.

The pH scale with the pH values of common acids
The pH scale with the pH values of common acids

One way to determine the pH of an acidic solution is through the use of an indicator. An indicator is a compound or mixture of compounds that changes color under different pH conditions. For example, universal indicators turn red or yellow in acidic solutions and can be used to determine the pH of an acid with a fair degree of accuracy. This picture shows universal indicators added to different solutions.

Universal indicator added to different solutions
Universal indicator added to different solutions

Since hydrogen ions are released by acids, acidic solutions can conduct electricity. The ability to cause electrical conductivity in solution classifies all acid solutions as electrolytes. The electrical conductivity of an acidic solution allows for pH measurements to be made digitally by a digital pH meter, like the one seen here.

A digital pH meter
A digital pH meter

While pH provides a quantitative measurement of acidity, acids can also be identified through qualitative properties. Acids generally taste sour. This property can be safely confirmed by tasting fruit juice like lemon or orange juice. The sour flavor of these juices comes from the dissolved citric acid.

Orange juice is acidic because it contains citric acid
Orange juice is acidic because it contains citric acid

Examples of Acid Solutions

There are many different acidic solutions that are found in the natural world, as well as in the realm of industry. These acid solutions range from hydrochloric acid to citric acid, and sulfuric acid to acetic acid. A brief list is given in the following table.

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