Key PointsThe dissociation of weak acids, which are the a lot of popular kind of acid, deserve to be calculated mathematically and also applied in experimental work.If the concentration and Ka of a weak acid are well-known, the pH of the whole solution have the right to be calculated. The exact technique of calculation varies according to what presumptions and also simplifications have the right to be made.Weak acids and also weak bases are vital for preparing buffer services, which have important speculative supplies.

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Termsweak acidone that dissociates intotally, donating only some of its hydrogen ions into solutionconjugate basethe species created after donating a proton.conjugate acidthe species developed as soon as a base accepts a proton

A weak acid is one that does not dissociate entirely in solution; this indicates that a weak acid does not donate all of its hydrogen ions (H+) in a solution. Weak acids have actually incredibly little worths for Ka (and also therefore higher worths for pKa) compared to strong acids, which have very huge Ka values (and slightly negative pKa values).

The majority of acids are weak. On average, only around 1 percent of a weak acid solution dissociates in water in a 0.1 mol/L solution. Because of this, the concentration of H+ ions in a weak acid solution is constantly less than the concentration of the undissociated species, HA. Examples of weak acids incorporate acetic acid (CH3COOH), which is found in vinegar, and oxalic acid (H2C2O4), which is found in some vegetables.

VinegarsAll vinegars contain acetic acid, a widespread weak acid.


Weak acids ionize in a water solution only to a very modeprice level. The generalized dissociation reaction is provided by:

HA(aq) ightleftharpoons H^+ (aq) + A^- (aq)

where HA is the undissociated species and also A– is the conjugate base of the acid. The stamina of a weak acid is stood for as either an equilibrium constant or a percent dissociation. The equilibrium concentrations of reactants and also assets are connected by the acid dissociation constant expression, Ka:

K_a = frac

The higher the value of Ka, the more favored the H+ formation, which renders the solution even more acidic; therefore, a high Ka worth suggests a reduced pH for a solution. The Ka of weak acids varies in between 1.8×10−16 and also 55.5. Acids with a Ka much less than 1.8×10−16 are weaker acids than water.

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If acids are polyprotic, each proton will have a distinctive Ka. For example, H2CO3 has actually 2 Ka worths because it has two acidic prolots. The initially Ka describes the first dissociation step:

H_2CO_3 + H_2O ightarrow HCO_3^- + H_3O^+

This Ka value is 4.46×10−7 (pKa1 = 6.351). The second Ka is 4.69×10−11 (pKa2 = 10.329) and also describes the second dissociation step:

HCO_3^- + H_2O ightarrow CO_3^2- + H_3O^+

Calculating the pH of a Weak Acid Solution

The Ka of acetic acid is 1.8 imes 10^-5. What is the pH of a solution of 1 M acetic acid?

In this case, you have the right to uncover the pH by addressing for concentration of H+ (x) utilizing the acid’s concentration (F) and Ka. Assume that the concentration of H+ in this straightforward instance is equal to the concentration of A–, since the two dissociate in a 1:1 mole ratio:

K_a = frac = fracx^2(F-x)

This quadratic equation deserve to be manipulated and also addressed. A widespread assumption is that x is small; we deserve to justify assuming this for calculations entailing weak acids and also bases, because we understand that these compounds only dissociate to a very tiny degree. Because of this, our over equation simplifies to:

K_a=1.8 imes 10^-5=fracx^2F-xapprox fracx^2F=fracx^2 ext1 M

1.8 imes 10^-5=x^2

x=3.9 imes 10^-3 ext M

pH=-log=-log(3.9 imes 10^-3)=2.4

Although it is just a weak acid, a concentrated enough solution of acetic acid can still be fairly acidic.

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