Chemistry » Acid-Base Equilibria » Hydrolysis of Salt Solutions

# Salts of Weak Acids and Strong Bases

## Salts of Weak Acids and Strong Bases

When we neutralize a weak acid with a strong base, we get a salt that contains the conjugate base of the weak acid. This conjugate base is usually a weak base. For example, sodium acetate, NaCH3CO2, is a salt formed by the reaction of the weak acid acetic acid with the strong base sodium hydroxide:

$${\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}\text{H}\left(aq\right)+\text{NaOH}\left(aq\right)\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}⟶\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{\text{NaCH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}\left(aq\right)+{\text{H}}_{2}\text{O}\left(aq\right)$$

A solution of this salt contains sodium ions and acetate ions. The sodium ion has no effect on the acidity of the solution. However, the acetate ion, the conjugate base of acetic acid, reacts with water and increases the concentration of hydroxide ion:

$${\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}{}^{\text{−}}\left(aq\right)+{\text{H}}_{2}\text{O}\left(l\right)\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}⇌\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}\text{H}\left(aq\right)+{\text{OH}}^{\text{−}}\left(aq\right)$$

The equilibrium equation for this reaction is the ionization constant, Kb, for the base $${\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}{}^{\text{−}}.$$ The value of Kb can be calculated from the value of the ionization constant of water, Kw, and Ka, the ionization constant of the conjugate acid of the anion using the equation:

$${K}_{\text{w}}={K}_{\text{a}}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{K}_{\text{b}}$$

For the acetate ion and its conjugate acid we have:

$${K}_{\text{b}}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\left(\text{for}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}{}^{\text{−}}\right)=\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\cfrac{{K}_{\text{w}}}{{K}_{\text{a}}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\left(\text{for}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}\text{H}\right)}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}=\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\cfrac{1.0\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-14}}{1.8\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-5}}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}=\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}5.6\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-10}$$

Some handbooks do not report values of Kb. They only report ionization constants for acids. If we want to determine a Kb value using one of these handbooks, we must look up the value of Ka for the conjugate acid and convert it to a Kb value.

## Example

### Equilibrium in a Solution of a Salt of a Weak Acid and a Strong Base

Determine the acetic acid concentration in a solution with $$\left[{\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}{}^{\text{−}}\right]=0.050\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}M$$ and [OH] = 2.5 $$×$$ 10−6M at equilibrium. The reaction is:

$${\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}{}^{\text{−}}\left(aq\right)+{\text{H}}_{2}\text{O}\left(l\right)\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}⇌\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}\text{H}\left(aq\right)+{\text{OH}}^{\text{−}}\left(aq\right)$$

### Solution

We are given two of three equilibrium concentrations and asked to find the missing concentration. If we can find the equilibrium constant for the reaction, the process is straightforward.

The acetate ion behaves as a base in this reaction; hydroxide ions are a product. We determine Kb as follows:

$${K}_{\text{b}}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\left(\text{for}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}{}^{\text{−}}\right)\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}=\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\cfrac{{K}_{\text{w}}}{{K}_{\text{a}}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\left(\text{for}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}\text{H}\right)}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}=\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\cfrac{1.0\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-14}}{1.8\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-5}}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}=5.6\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-10}$$

Now find the missing concentration:

$${K}_{\text{b}}=\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\cfrac{\left[{\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}\text{H}\right]\left[{\text{OH}}^{\text{−}}\right]}{\left[{\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}{}^{\text{−}}\right]}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}=5.6\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-10}$$

$$=\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\cfrac{\left[{\text{CH}}_{3}{\text{CO}}_{2}\text{H}\right]\left(2.5\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-6}\right)}{\left(0.050\right)}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}=5.6\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-10}$$

Solving this equation we get [CH3CO2H] = 1.1 $$×$$ 10−5M.