Basic Solutions in Chemistry: Properties & Examples

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  • 0:01 Acids and Bases
  • 1:49 Properties of Basic Solutions
  • 3:05 Basic Solution Examples
  • 3:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nathan Crawford

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

Basic solutions are very important components of many different chemical reactions. This lesson provides an introduction to bases, basic solutions, and their properties. Several examples of basic solutions in action are also provided.

Acids and Bases

What do household ammonia cleaner and liquid bleach have in common? Yes, they are both useful cleaners, but what do they have in common in terms of chemistry? Both of these examples are basic solutions!

Although different definitions of acids and bases within chemistry are available, this discussion is focused on the widely applicable Bronsted-Lowry definition. Under this definition, acids are defined as substances that donate a hydrogen ion during a chemical reaction. Bases, on the other hand, are substances that accept hydrogen ions from acids.

To illustrate the relationship between acids and bases, consider the reaction that occurs when vinegar (acetic acid, CH sub 3 COOH) is added to baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO sub 3). The acetic acid donates an H^+ to sodium bicarbonate. The bicarbonate ion (HCO sub 3 ^2-) accepts the H^+ and is changed into water (H sub 2 O) and bubbles of carbon dioxide gas (CO sub 2 ).

Reaction of acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate

Basic solutions are made by dissolving bases in liquids like water. Normally, the base is in solid form, such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH) pellets. The solid base is known as the solute because it is what is being dissolved. The water is known as the solvent due to its role as the liquid that dissolves the base. Once dissolved in water, the base splits or dissociates into ions. One of which is able to accept a hydrogen ion. In the case of the sodium hydroxide example, the hydroxide ion (OH^-) is hydrogen ion acceptor.

Dissociation of sodium hydroxide when dissolved in water

Properties of Basic Solutions

To determine if a solution is basic, the most direct method is to determine the pH of the solution. The pH is a measure of the number of the number of H^+ ions that are present. Solutions that are neither basic nor acidic have a pH value of 7. Acidic solutions have pH values less than 7. Basic solutions have pH values greater than 7.

Solution pH
Hydrochloric acid <1
Vinegar 5
Tap water 7
Blood 7.4
Household ammonia 11-12

Basic solutions can also be detected through the use of indicators. Indicators are compounds that change color under different pH conditions. For example, the indicator phenolphthalein changes pink when the pH of a solution is greater than 7. Another example, bromothymol blue, changes colors from yellow in acidic solutions to blue for basic solutions.

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