Acids and Bases: An Introduction


Table of Contents


Molecular Structure

Ionization Constants



Lewis Theory

You may not be aware of it, but you encounter the chemistry of acids and bases every day. Have you done any of the following recently?

baked anything containing baking soda or baking powder?

taken an antacid for an upset stomach?

unclogged your sink with a drain cleaner such as Drano™?

used carbonless copy paper (such as signing a credit card receipt)?

These are just a few every day examples of acid-base chemistry. Even if you never do any of the above examples, you can't escape the chemistry of acids and bases. Along with water, the principal substances of your muscles, organs, blood, and skin are proteins - polymers of amino acids joined by acid-base reactions. Your genetic makeup is found in the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in the nuclei of your cells. Acid-base chemistry is literally all around you!

There are two ways acids and bases can be described. One is by their observable properties. The other is by describing their molecular structure and chemical reactivity.

Let's first make some observations:

Click on each characteristic to see an example.



taste sour taste bitter
produce bubbles of gas when reacting with limestone cause metal ions to form insoluble compounds that precipitate from solution
dissolve many metals while producing a flammable gas feel slippery
turn litmus red turn litmus blue

WARNING: While acids and bases have characteristic tastes and feels, it is NEVER safe to taste or feel an unknown substance. Even though the examples given above are things safe to taste, many acids and bases would cause damage to your mouth and digestive system if injested and to your skin if touched.

An Introduction