pH scale

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A logarithmic scale for expressing the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. To a first approximation, the pH of a solution can be defined as −log10c, where c is the concentration of hydrogen ions in moles per cubic decimetre. A neutral solution at 25°C has a hydrogen-ion concentration of 10−7 mol dm−3, so the pH is 7. A pH below 7 indicates an acid solution; one above 7 indicates an alkaline solution. More accurately, the pH depends not on the concentration of hydrogen ions but on their activity, which cannot be measured experimentally. For practical purposes, the pH scale is defined by using a hydrogen electrode in the solution of interest as one half of a cell, with a reference electrode (e.g. a calomel electrode) as the other half cell. The pH is then given by (EER)F/2.303RT, where E is the e.m.f. of the cell, ER the standard electrode potential of the reference electrode, and F the Faraday constant. In practice, a glass electrode is more convenient than a hydrogen electrode. pH stands for ‘potential of hydrogen’. The scale was introduced by S. P. Sørensen in 1909.

Subjects: Chemistry — Physics.

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