Break ups are never fun. Be it between romantic partners, married couples, or boy bands, 99% of the time someone will end up in tears. Or angry. Or both. For the sake of the analogy, let’s go with both.
We begin with a couple. Na and Cl. They aren’t the most stable of people, but their relationship gives them solace. Together, they can spew their vitriol at the world. But a relationship built on hatred cannot last, and as hard as they try to save it, their isolated world crumbles around them. As they part, their emotions rise up to overwhelm them and they hurl insults at each other until Cl goes too far. Na runs away in tears, leaving Cl brokenly triumphant. That’s the last they see of each other. Cl nurtures a growing hopelessness (H) and sorrow at being so mean to the love of their life. Na feels overwhelming hatred (OH) for Cl for the first few days.
After the first week, their emotions turn only to sorrow. Nights of crying, screaming, and ugly sniffling. Water stains mar their cheeks for weeks. Eventually, their hearts harden. They reform, stitched back together through the power of the human spirit to move on. They feel black anger, blinding fury for a single day that causes them to pound against the walls and lash out at anyone who tries to help. It’s an ugly day for everyone. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who talked to them.
But it’s a necessary step in the healing process. Soon, they are able to move on. Nursing scars and a tender heart, they look to the future and put their pasts behind them. They are stronger, smarter, and stand a little straighter because they endured the rending of a heart full of love.
And thus ends another hypothetical romance. This one got especially dark, but the tone serves its purpose for the analogy. Acid-base reactions can often be the most violent reactions used in chem lab. Just take the mixing of baking soda and vinegar, a commonly used reaction in backyard science. Just a little pinch of baking powder can cause a fizz, imagine using enough to propel a bottle through the air.
As for the names used, they represented elements, as usual. Na, sodium, makes a return, as does Cl, chlorine. This time, however, they’re attached to emotions abbreviated as H and OH. This is where the reaction begins to take shape as an acid-base reaction. An acid, by definition, is a proton giver, meaning it gives away a positively charged particle known as a proton. This proton, an atom of H missing its sole electron, is accepted by the base in the reaction. An obvious indicator of an acid is an H in front of an anion, like HCl from our example. A base, on the other hand, is a proton receiver by definition, and is most often indicated by an OH after a cation, like NaOH from the example.
When an acid and a base mix, there is usually an explosive exchange of energy as the H and OH rip each other from the ions in the reaction (Na & Cl) in an effort to form water. With nowhere else to go, the ions pair up to form an ionic salt. In the analogy, the water is represented by tears and the salt is the implied use of the slang term for bitter stemming from a badly ended relationship. This is where the full definition comes into play.
In an acid-base reaction, an acid and a base combine to react and form a water and a salt. Now, there are exceptions to the rule involving decomposition of complex products, but there will always be the formation of water and a salt somewhere in the secondary steps.
The reaction between HCl and NaOH, shown by the equation HCl + NaOH -> H20 + NaCl is one of the more tame acid-base reactions, but it can still be exciting. In this video, the concentrations of the reactants are far from equal, so a reaction with audible fizzing is produced. The white powder in the bottom is actually excess NaOH, as opposed to the salt produced. This means all the HCl has been reacted and the liquid surrounding the powder is salt water with a little bit of dissolved NaOH. In a perfectly concentrated reaction, only salt water is produced.
For the next post, get ready for a different kind of break up.