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In chemistry, an amphoteric species is a molecule or ion that can react as an acid as well as a base.[1] The
word is derived from the Greek word amphoteroi () meaning "both". Many metals (such as
copper, zinc, tin, lead, aluminium, and beryllium) form amphoteric oxides or hydroxides. Amphoterism
depends on the oxidation state of the oxide.
One type of amphoteric species are amphiprotic molecules, which can either donate or accept a proton
(H+). Examples include amino acids and proteins, which have amine and carboxylic acid groups, and selfionizable compounds such as water and ammonia.
Ampholytes are amphoteric molecules that contain both acidic and basic groups and will exist mostly as
zwitterions in a certain range of pH. The pH at which the average charge is zero is known as the molecule's
isoelectric point. Ampholytes are used to establish a stable pH gradient for use in isoelectric focusing.

1 Amphoteric oxides and hydroxides[2]
2 Amphiprotic molecules
2.1 Examples
2.2 Not all amphoteric substances are amphiprotic
3 See also
4 References

Amphoteric oxides and hydroxides[2]

Zinc oxide (ZnO) reacts with both acids and with bases:
In acid: ZnO + 2H+ Zn2+ + H2O
In base: ZnO + H2O + 2 OH- [Zn(OH)4]2This reactivity can be used to separate different cations, such as zinc(II), which dissolves in base, from
manganese(II), which does not dissolve in base.
Aluminium hydroxide is also amphoteric:
As a base (neutralizing an acid): Al(OH)3 + 3 HCl AlCl3 + 3 H2O
As an acid (neutralizing a base): Al(OH)3 + NaOH Na[Al(OH)4]

Some other amphoteric compounds include:

Beryllium hydroxide
with acid: Be(OH)2 + 2 HCl BeCl2 + 2 H2O
with base: Be(OH)2 + 2 NaOH Na2[Be(OH)4]
Aluminium oxide
with acid: Al2O3 + 3 H2O + 6 H3O+(aq) 2 [Al(H2O)6]3+(aq)
with base: Al2O3 + 3 H2O + 2 OH-(aq) 2 [Al(OH)4]-(aq)
Lead(II) oxide
with acid: PbO + 2 HCl PbCl2 + H2O
with base: PbO + 2 NaOH + H2O Na2[Pb(OH)4]
Some other elements which form amphoteric oxides are gallium, indium, scandium, titanium, zirconium,
vanadium, chromium, iron, cobalt, copper, silver, gold, germanium, tin, antimony and bismuth.[3]

Amphiprotic molecules
According to the Brnsted-Lowry theory of acids and bases: acids are proton donors and bases are proton
acceptors.[4] An amphiprotic molecule (or ion) can either donate or accept a proton, thus acting either as an
acid or a base. Water, amino acids, hydrogen carbonate ions and hydrogen sulfate ions are common
examples of amphiprotic species. Since they can donate a proton, all amphiprotic substances contain a
hydrogen atom. Also, since they can act like an acid or a base, they are amphoteric.

A common example of an amphiprotic substance is the hydrogen carbonate ion, which can act as a base:
HCO3- + H3O+ H2CO3 + H2O
or as an acid:
HCO3- + OH- CO32- + H2O
Thus, it can effectively accept or donate a proton.
Water is the most common example, acting as a base when reacting with an acid such as hydrogen chloride:
H2O + HCl H3O+ + Cl-,
and acting as an acid when reacting with a base such as ammonia:

H2O + NH3 NH4+ + OH-

Not all amphoteric substances are amphiprotic

Although an amphiprotic species must be amphoteric, the converse is not true. For example, the metal oxide
ZnO contains no hydrogen and cannot donate a proton. Instead it is a Lewis acid whose Zn atom accepts an
electron pair from the base OH-. The other metal oxides and hydroxides mentioned above also function as
Lewis acids rather than Brnsted acids.

See also
Isoelectric point
Ate complex

Wikimedia Commons has

media related to Amphoteric

1. ^ IUPAC, Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. (the "Gold Book") (1997). Online corrected version:
(2006) "amphoteric (".
2. ^ Housecroft, C. E.; Sharpe, A. G. (2004). Inorganic Chemistry (2nd ed.). Prentice Hall. pp. 1734. ISBN 9780130399137.
3. ^ CHEMIX School & Lab - Software for Chemistry Learning, by Arne Standnes (
(program download required)
4. ^ R.H. Petrucci, W.S. Harwood, and F.G. Herring, "General Chemistry" (8th edn, Prentice-Hall 2002), p.669

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Categories: Chemical properties Acidbase chemistry
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