Alternate titles: Brønsted–Lowry definition, acids and bases, proton theory of, proton theory of acids and bases
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Key People:Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted...(Show more)Related Topics:acidIonic acidConjugate acid-base pairProton donorProton acceptor...(Show more)

Brønsted-Lowry theory, also called proton theory of acids and bases, a theory, introduced independently in 1923 by the Danish chemist Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted and the English chemist Thomas Martin Lowry, stating that any compound that can transfer a proton to any other compound is an acid, and the compound that accepts the proton is a base. A proton is a nuclear particle with a unit positive electrical charge; it is represented by the symbol H+ because it constitutes the nucleus of a hydrogen atom.


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Overview of three theories of acids and bases: Arrhenius theory, Brønsted-Lowry theory, and Lewis theory.

According to the Brønsted-Lowry scheme a substance can function as an acid only in the presence of a base; similarly, a substance can function as a base only in the presence of an acid. Furthermore, when an acidic substance loses a proton, it forms a base, called the conjugate base of an acid, and when a basic substance gains a proton, it forms an acid called the conjugate acid of a base. Thus, the reaction between an acidic substance, such as hydrochloric acid, and a basic substance, such as ammonia, may be represented by the equation:



In order to resolve the various difficulties in the hydrogen–hydroxide ion definitions of acids and bases, a new, more generalized definition...

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In the equation the ammonium ion (NH+4 ) is the acid conjugate to the base ammonia, and the chloride ion (Cl-) is the base conjugate to hydrochloric acid.


The Brønsted-Lowry theory enlarges the number of compounds considered to be acids and bases to include not only the neutral molecules (e.g., sulfuric, nitric, and acetic acids, and the alkali metal hydroxides) but also certain atoms and molecules with positive and negative electrical charges (cations and anions). The ammonium ion, the hydronium ion, and some hydrated metal cations are considered acids. The acetate, phosphate, carbonate, sulfide, and halogen ions are considered bases.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia brickandmortarphilly.comThis article was most recently revised and updated by Erik Gregersen, Senior Editor.

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