Ionization of Water Weak Acids and Weak Bases

Although many of the solvent properties of water can be explained in terms of the uncharged H2O molecule, the small degree of ionization of water to hydrogen ions (H+) and hydroxide ions (OH—) must also be taken into account. Like all reversible reactions, the ionization of water can be described by an equilibrium constant. When weak acids are dissolved in water, they contribute H+ by ionizing; weak bases consume H+ by becoming protonated. These processes are also governed by equilibrium constants. The total hydrogen ion concentration from all sources is experimentally measurable and is expressed as the pH of the solution. To predict the state of ionization of solutes in water, we must take into account the relevant equilibrium constants for each ion-ization reaction. We therefore turn now to a brief discussion of the ionization of water and of weak acids and bases dissolved in water.

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