What is a Conjugate Acid? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 History of Acids
  • 1:30 Definition & Formation
  • 2:40 Examples
  • 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

Explore this lesson to learn about conjugate acids, how they are different from other acids, and where to find them in a given acid-base equation. Then, apply what you have learned, in this lesson, to examples involving conjugate acids.

History of Acids

Did you know conjugate acids belong to the larger family of acids? As a member of this family they have taken on similar traits as the other acids, but, of course, have their own distinct traits that make them unique within the family. Before we jump into learning about what makes a conjugate acid different from its acidic family members, let's learn more about conjugate acid's historical lineage.

An acid is a type of solution that can be found widely throughout our environment. This may seem like a very broad definition of an acid, but there is a great reason for this broad definition. Technically, an acid has three different definitions, all created by theories. An acid can be labeled as an Arrhenius acid, which has an ability to break apart in solution to create hydrogen ions. An acid can also be labeled as a Bronsted-Lowry acid, which has the ability to donate protons in solution. An acid can be a Lewis acid, which can accept electron pairs in solution. Each of these labels build the family tree of acids.

Now, you may know that acids can also be strong or weak. This is most certainly true! Depending on its strength in solution, or should we say how many muscles an acid can flex, an acid can be strong or weak. So where do conjugate acids fit into this discussion? So glad you asked! Let's look at what conjugate acids are and why they belong to this family of acids.

Definition & Formation

Conjugate acids are a type of acid that gains a proton in solution. These acids will gain a proton in response to a base that has happily accepted a proton. This fits perfectly into the family lineage of acids because conjugate acids describe what a Bronsted-Lowry acid is.

Something to keep in mind with conjugate acids is that they just don't randomly pop up and say hello in a solution. Rather, they are created from an acid-base process involving the acceptance or donation of protons. Specifically, a conjugate acid is created from a base. I know you may be thinking, 'Wait a minute... a base? What does that have to do with acids?' Well when a lonely base ion interacts with water, something happens to that base ion. It happily gains a proton. As a result, this newly formed molecule is no longer called a base but a conjugate acid.

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