Monday, March 2, 2009

Acids and Bases

This post is just a quick explanation of what acids and bases are, although we have all heard of them before, it can be a little confusing as to what the difference between them is and what role they play in our day-to-day life.

Acids and bases are both chemicals which all contain the chemical element Hydrogen, however, that isn’t really important to know. What is important is that all acids and bases are corrosive to some degree, this means that they have the ability to ‘eat through’ and break up matter. Be that food, stains or even human skin.

For example: all citrus fruit contain citric acid – that is why when you get lemon juice in a cut, it stings, because the acid is attacking our tender skin. Despite how much that hurts, citric acid is a weak acid, this means that is isn’t dangerous to us – good news for people who love oranges.

Bases as used for cleaning mostly, and have a very slimy feel to them – bleach is an example of a base.

You can tell the strength of an acid or base by its pH number. The pH scale extends from 14 to 1 – 14 being the strongest base and 1 being the strongest acid. The number 7 on the pH scale is represented by water and is classed as neutral. Thus, the closer to 7 a number of the pH scale is, the more neutral the chemical and thus, the safer it is.


How Acids and Bases Work Together

Acids and bases are the opposite of each other, much like fire and water – they are able to cancel each other out. If you take one acid and one base in equal amounts and of equal volume and concentration (the amount of acid to water) and mix them together, then you would end up with just water and salt.

This is a very handy feature of acids and bases which we use every single day. Bacteria, when they eat, put out acidic waste, it is this acid which rots your teeth and causes cavities. Toothpaste is an example of a weak base and is used to counteract the acid from the bacteria in your mouth – stopping your teeth from rotting. Brushing your teeth with toothpaste also helps to kill the bacteria and manually remove them through brushing and rinsing.

The best example of acid within the body is actually in the stomach. Hydrochloric acid resides within the stomach with a pH of about 2, to help digest your food. So why doesn’t this strong acid eat through your stomach? Because of a thick coating of mucus which lines your stomach and is replaced every 3-5 days. This mucus prevents the acid from eating through the stomach.

So there you have it, acids and bases, hopefully put simply and answering all the questions which you never had about them.

Happy Readings!

- Bethany

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