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What is a Binary Acid?

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  • 0:04 What Are Binary Acids?
  • 0:57 Characteristics of…
  • 2:01 Binary Acid or Binary…
  • 2:24 Binary Acid Nomenclature
  • 4:00 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

If you work in the photography industry or have any rubber items in your home, you've most likely come in contact with hydrochloric acid, a common type of binary acid. In this lesson, you'll explore binary acids, including their characteristics and how they differ from binary compounds.

What Are Binary Acids?

What do you think the compounds hydroiodic acid, hydrofluoric acid, and hydrobromic acid, have in common? You may have noticed that each comound contains a hydrogen atom, but did you know that iodine, fluorine, and bromine are nonmetallic elements, which makes these compounds binary acids? Binary acids are acids composed of two atoms, a hydrogen element and a nonmetal element. Hydroiodic acid, hydrofluoric acid, and hydrobromic acid are binary acids because they have a hydrogen element and nonmetal element (iodine, fluorine and bromine) bonded together. In contrast to metals, which are shiny and ductile, nonmetals are dull and brittle.

So, how do you know if you are working with a nonmetal? Well, for one thing, you can find them on the periodic table, like this one:

Diagram 1: Periodic table with nonmetals shown in pink to the right
periodic table

Characteristics of Binary Acids

In chemistry, acids dissociate, or break apart, into hydrogen ions, which are positively charged, and anions, which are negatively charged, when dissolved in water. While strong acids, like hydrochloric acid, completely dissociate into ions, less than 10% of weak acids, such as hydrofluoric acid, dissociate into ions. The strength of a binary acid depends upon a number of chemical factors, such as bond strength, dissociation constant (pKa), and electronegativity.

Some binary acids are stronger than others. For example, hydrochloric acid is a stronger acid than hydrofluoric acid. Although strong, HCI has longer, weaker bonds that make it easier for it to dissociate in a solution. While the weaker acid, HF has short bonds that make it more difficult to disassociate. The shorter the bond linking atoms in a molecule together, the greater the bond stability. The greater the bond stability, the less likely a molecule will be to dissociate.

Binary Acids or Binary Compound?

When observing molecules, one way to tell the difference between a binary acid and a binary compound is to consider its physical state. Aqueous molecules, as denoted by the symbol 'aq', are acids. This is because acids are found in water, or aqueous solutions. If the molecule is a gas or liquid, as denoted by the symbols 'g' or 'l,' it's a binary compound.

Binary Acid Nomenclature

In chemistry, nomenclature refers to the process of creating a name for a given compound. Naming binary acids and compounds is no different from naming chemical compounds in that each process follows a set of rules. When naming a binary acid, you'll use 'hydro' as the prefix, and 'ic' as the suffix. Do you remember our discussion on nonmetal elements and how to identify one on the periodic table? The root word, where you attach the prefix and suffix, is based upon the name of the nonmetal element.

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