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QUESTION

How does Bronsted-Lowry define acids and bases?

A Brønsted-Lowry acid is any substance (molecule or ion) that can donate a hydrogen ion (H^(+)).

A Brønsted-Lowry base is any species that can accept a hydrogen ion (H^(+)).

Basically, acids are proton donors and bases are proton acceptors.

Take the reaction below for example:

HI + NH_3 rightleftharpoons NH_4^(+) + I^(-)

Hydroiodic acid (HI) is the Brønsted-Lowry acid because it donates a hydrogen ion. Ammonia (NH_3) is the Brønsted-Lowry base because it accepts the hydrogen ion.

The Brønsted-Lowry theory also introduces the concept of conjugate acid-base pairs. A conjugate acid-base pair are two species that differ by a (H^(+)) ion.

Based on the reaction above, the ammonium ion (NH_4^(+)) is the conjugate acid of the base ammonia and the iodide ion (I^(-)) is the conjugate base of hydroiodic acid.

Here's a tip to let you know which substance is the conjugate acid and which substance is the conjugate base:

• A conjugate base has one less (H^(+)) proton than the acid you started with.

• A conjugate acid has one more (H^(+)) proton than the base you started with.

Here's a general depiction of conjugate acid-base pairs:

HA represents an acid

B represents a base

A^(-) represents the conjugate base since this substance has one less proton than the acid, HA.

HB^(+) represents the conjugate acid since this substance has one more proton than the base, B.