Strong Acid: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of Strong Acids
  • 1:15 Examples of Strong Acids
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

Acids are very common in nature and in chemical reactions. In this lesson, you will learn what makes a substance an acid and how to recognize strong acids from others.

Definition of Strong Acids

You have probably heard of acids and no doubt you have encountered them. They are found in soft drinks and cleaning products, and have many industrial uses. Acids are substances that give off hydrogen ions or protons when placed in solutions.

It is very important to know the number of hydrogen ions or protons that can be given off by a particular acid. This determines an acid's strength. A strong acid is any acid that ionizes completely in solutions. This means it gives off the greatest number of hydrogen ions or protons when placed in a solution.

Ions are charged particles. Since a strong acid gives off a great number of ions as it breaks down, or dissociates, this means strong acids are able to conduct electricity.

You may find it confusing to hear that acids give off hydrogen ions or protons. Many students ask why they see hydrogen ions sometimes and protons at other times when they read about acids. The answer is simple: a hydrogen ion is a proton. Some textbooks or professors prefer to use one word or the other. If you look at the periodic table, you will see that hydrogen is element number one. This means that it has one proton, and therefore a hydrogen ion is essentially a proton.

Examples of Strong Acids

Hydrochloric acid, or HCl, is considered a strong acid because no HCl molecules remain intact when the acid is placed in a solution of water. Because of the strong attraction between the water molecules and the HCl molecules, every HCl molecule ionizes. Hydrochloric acid is a clear liquid and is commonly used for industrial purposes, including the manufacture of polyurethane and PVC pipes. It is also the acid found in our stomachs that is used to break down the food we consume.

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