Study Guide

Acids and Bases

Acids and Bases Introduction

Ever since the discovery of litmus, a dye molecule found in lichens around 1300 C.E., chemists have been obsessed with understanding acidity and basicity. And you thought your brother's obsession with his Venus flytrap was a bit much. At least he isn't trying to farm fungus in his room.

While the ancient 'litmus test' served to identify substances with acidic or basic properties for centuries, the modern era of chemistry ushered in new and improved ways of defining acids and bases. In the first part of this section we will take a historical tour of how acids and basis have been defined.

With these general definitions in our pockets we will be able to understand how acids and bases equilibrate in water and how to quantify just how acidic or basic a solution is going to be. Then we will layer on some more acid and base awesomeness by exploring how acids and bases react in titrations and how acids and bases can be used to set and hold the acidity of a solution known as a buffer.

Acids and Bases Resources


Buffers and the Henderson Hasselbalch Equation Explained in 4 Minutes
A video on calculating buffer pH values using Henderson Hasselbalch equation or initial, change, and equilibrium table)

The Magic of pH Indicators Explained by an Enthusiastic Grad Student
Tyler will first show you a magic trick involving pH indicators and then reveal the science behind the madness.

The Power of Sulfuric Acid
Here's a report from a local news team about sulfuric acid and the danger it poses to cars if it spills out on the road.


Acid on Mars?
The chemistry of Mars is a hot topic these days. Let National Geographic show you what's up.

More Acid on Mars
This article looks at some of the latest about water on Mars and whether its acidity could have once supported life.

Ocean Acidity
It's not just lakes anymore. The pH of the oceans is increasing, too.

Coral Reef Chemistry 101
Interested in the survival of coral reefs? If so, check out this report about how coral reefs are pH sensitive.

Ocean Antacids
NPR is at it again. This time, they're investigating acid neutralizers.

Acid Rain, Acid Rain, Go Away, Come Again Another Day
While we've done a lot to curb acid rain, there is still more work to be done. Find out about the latest in this article on new challenges to stopping acid rain.

Dirt pH Makes the Plants Grow
Who would have thought that the pH of dirt could determine how well plants can grow? This article points out some mind-blowing facts about the importance of soil pH.