Strong Acids & Bases: Table & Examples

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  • 0:03 Acids and Bases
  • 1:53 Strong Acids
  • 2:54 Strong Bases
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

This lesson will touch on the basics of acids and bases. Learn about their formulas, how they are classified, and some of their common uses. Then learn how acids and bases are classified using Ka and Kb values.

Acids and Bases

Chemicals are all around us. We consume them in certain foods and drinks and use them for different reasons, such as cleaning. We even have chemicals throughout our bodies. Not all chemicals are the same, however.

According to the Arrhenius theory, some chemicals are acids, which are compounds that release hydrogen ions (H+) when dissolved in water. Other chemicals are bases, which are compounds that release hydroxide ions (OH-) when they are dissolved in water.

Even within these two categories, not all acids and bases are the same. Acids range from being slightly acidic to being very acidic. Likewise, bases range from being slightly basic, also called alkaline, to being very alkaline.

Scientists needed a way to determine the strength or weakness of the specific acids and bases they are working with. So, they came up with a method for determining this information. Scientists figured it would be best to determine the strength of an acid or base by looking at how much dissociation occurs when the compound is put into water. For acids, the Ka is a value that signifies the likelihood of an acid to dissociate. Similarly, the Kb is a value that signifies the likelihood of a base to dissociate.

Trying to work and do calculations with these values is a little challenging, so we instead work with the negative logarithm of these values. These are noted as pKa for acids and pKb for bases. A very strong acid will have a smaller pKa value and a weaker acid will have a higher pKa value. The same is true for bases. The stronger a base is, the smaller the pKb and the weaker a base is, the higher the pKb. Let's look at some strong acids and strong bases now.

Strong Acids

You may be a little surprised when you learn that one of the strongest acids is inside of your body! Hydrochloric acid, or HCl, is a compound substance composed of hydrogen and chlorine atoms that has a pKa of -7. Now, this acid does not exist in full strength in your body. It is mixed with other compounds that reduce the acidity.

Chemical Name Chemical Formula Ionization
Hydrochloric acid HCl H(+) + Cl(-)
Sulfuric acid H2 SO4 H(+) + HSO4
Nitric acid HNO3 H(+) + NO3
Hydroiodic acid HI H(+) + I(-)
Hydrobromic acid HBr H(+) + Br(-)
Perchloric acid HClO4 H(+) + HClO3

If you are into gardening, then you probably used a fertilizer that is made from sulfuric acid, another strong acid. Sulfuric acid is an acid composed of hydrogen combined with sulfate to give the chemical formula H2 SO4. The pKa of sulfuric acid is anywhere from -3 to 2 depending on the concentration.

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