Weak Electrolyte: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of Weak Electrolyte
  • 1:20 History of Weak Electrolyte
  • 2:15 Conductivity of Weak…
  • 3:00 Weak Electrolyte Example
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Electrolytes are very useful, from combating dehydration to aiding in battery function. Learn about a certain type of electrolyte called the weak electrolyte. Don't forget to test your knowledge by taking a quiz at the end of this lesson.

Definition of Weak Electrolyte

From Gatorade to anti-aging products, the inevitability of running into the word electrolyte is highly possible. Whether it is the food industry or chemical industry, weak electrolytes are widely used for a variety of purposes. Weak electrolytes are electrolytes that do not fully dissociate into ions in solution and only partially ionize in solution (roughly 1-10%).

Think of a weak electrolyte as a substance that is quite stubborn. When added to a solution, There is a 1-10% chance that it will either completely break apart into its respective ions or remain stubborn in its ways and not dissociate. When it does dissociate, it is those ions that can contribute to carrying an electrical charge in solution. The table shown here lists some examples of weak electrolytes.


Based on the family tree of electrolytes, there are two broad types of weak electrolytes: weak acids and bases. These substances are classified as weak electrolytes given their similar behavior in solution. For example, when you place a weak acid or base in solution they also have a 1-10% chance of dissociating in solution. This similarity in partial dissociation is what classifies a weak acid or base as a type of weak electrolyte.

History of Weak Electrolyte

A weak electrolyte belongs to a larger family called electrolytes shown in this diagram.

family tree

An electrolyte is A substance that can break apart into ions (in solution) and has the ability to conduct electricity (in solution). It is pretty amazing that molecules, such as sodium chloride (NaCl), acetic acid (CH3COOH), and nitric acid (HNO3), can conduct electricity.

Keep in mind that electrolytes are charged species that can ionize. Ionize is a fancy way of saying break apart or dissolve into ions in solution. Ions are atoms that carry a charge due to extra or missing electrons in their energy shell. They can exist as a cation or anion depending on the charge. A cation is an ion that is positively charged, while an anion is negatively charged. This will be important to remember when we look at an example regarding weak electrolyte dissociation in water.

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