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Hard and Soft Water Chemistry

Hard water is any water containing an appreciable quantity of dissolved minerals,

usually calcium and magnesium compounds. The actual concentration of the ions
varies - there isn't a standard value at which water is called 'hard'. Soft water is
treated water in which the only cation (positively charged ion) is sodium. Hard water
does not present a health risk, as long as the minerals aren't heavy metal salts. The
minerals in water give it a characteristic taste. Some natural mineral waters are
highly sought for their flavor and the health benefits they may confer. Soft water, on
the other hand, may taste salty and may not be suitable for drinking.

If soft water tastes bad, then why might you use a water softener? The answer is
that extremely hard water may shorten the life of plumbing and lessen the
effectiveness of certain cleaning agents. When hard water is heated, the carbonates
precipitate out of solution, forming scale in pipes and teakettles. In addition to
narrowing and potentially clogging the pipes, scale prevents efficient heat transfer,
so a water heater with scale will have to use a lot of energy to give you hot water.
Soap is less effective in hard water because its reacts to form the calcium or
magnesium salt of the organic acid of the soap. These salts are insoluble and form
grayish soap scum, but no cleansing lather. Detergents, on the other hand, lather in
both hard and soft water. Calcium and magnesium salts of the detergent's organic
acids form, but these salts are soluble in water.

Hard water can be softened (have its minerals removed) by treating it with lime or
by passing it over an ion exchange resin. The ion exchange resins are complex
sodium salts. Water flows over the resin surface, dissolving the sodium. The calcium,
magnesium, and other cations precipitate onto the resin surface. Sodium goes into
the water, but the other cations stay with the resin. Very hard water will end up
tasting saltier than water that had fewer dissolved minerals.

Most of the ions have been removed in soft water, but sodium and various anions
(negatively charged ions) still remain. Using a resin that replaces cations with
hydrogen and anions with hydroxide can deionize water. With this type of resin, the
cations stick to the resin and the hydrogen and hydroxide that are released combine
to form pure water.

What Is a Chemical?

The short answer to this question is technically everything is a chemical or is

composed of chemicals. The longer answer is that anything made of matter is a

Chemistry is the study of matter and its interactions with other matter. Matter is any
liquid, any solid, any gas, any pure substance, and any mixture. Water is a chemical.
Your keyboard is a chemical. Sometimes a chemical can be broken down into
components, which is true of your keyboard. However, you won't hear many
keyboards referred to as chemicals, this is because the term 'chemical' usually is
applied to a substance that appears homogeneous or the same throughout its
structure. So, everything is a chemical, but not everything is commonly called a
Mixture Chemistry - Colloids, Solutions, and Suspensions

There are three types of mixtures: solutions, colloids, and suspensions. The two
components of a solution or a colloid are the solute, which is the substance being
dissolved, and the solvent, which is the substance in which the solute is dissolved.
For gases and liquids, the solvent is the predominant substance, while the solute is
present in lesser amounts. For a colloid, one phase (dispersed phase) is uniformly
distributed in the dispersing medium. The principle difference between types of
mixtures is the size of the particles (solutes) that are mixed with the solvent. The
particles of suspensions are much larger than those of colloids or solutions. Although
the particles of solutions and colloids are small enough that they can be kept in
constant motion by interaction with solvent molecules, the particles in a suspension
will eventually settle out of solution. Thus, solutions and colloids stay mixed, while
suspensions don't. This property can be used to distinguish suspensions from colloids
or solutions.

The difference in particle size also affects the way different mixtures interact with
light. Colloids can be distinguished from solutions based on two of these effects.
Shining a flashlight beam though a solution and a colloid can see the Tyndall effect.
The path of light through the solution is invisible, while the beam is clearly visible
through the colloid as the particles reflect light. The Tyndall effect is even visible in
colloids that may appear clear to the naked eye. Brownian movement results in a
similar effect, which may also be used to distinguish between solutions and colloids.
The particles in solutions and colloids are in constant motion, but light reflected off
the larger particles of a colloid may be seen, in the same way that dust mote
movement is visible in a beam of sunlight in a room. The particles in a solution are
too small for the Brownian movement to be visible.

Suspensions in liquids can be separated by simple filtration, as by pouring the

suspension through a sieve or filter. The solute particles of solutions and colloids are
too close in size to those of the solvent to be separated by filtration. Distillation,
which is the boiling off of the more volatile component, is one way to separate
components of solutions or colloids.

These two tables summarize the properties of the types of mixtures and list
examples of each type:

Properties of Solutions, Colloids, and Suspensions

Solutions Colloids Suspensions

Particle Size: Smaller than 10-7 cm 10-7 - 10-4 cm Larger than 10-4 cm

Appearance: Transparent, uniform Cloudy, uniform At least two components visible, not uniform

Separation Method: Distillation Distillation Filtration

Effect of Light Beam: Invisible Visible Variable

Examples of Solutions and Colloids*
States of Matter Examples of Solutions Examples of Colloids

Gas in liquid Unopened carbonated soft drink Whipped cream

Gas in solid -- Foam

Liquid in gas Humid aid Fog

Liquid in liquid Rubbing alcohol Mayonnaise

Liquid in solid silver/mercury amalgam dental fillings Fruit pulp

Solid in gas -- Smoke

Solid in liquid Saltwater Gelatin

Solid in solid Brass (zinc dissolved in copper) Ruby glass (colloid of gold in glass)

Which Elements are Liquids at Room Temperature?

The phase of an element depends on its pressure as well as its temperature, so we'll
assume a normal atmospheric pressure for the answer to the question. There are
two elements that are liquid at 'room temperature' or 298 K (25C) and a total of six
elements that can be liquids at actual room temperatures and pressures:

Liquid at 25C


Become Liquid 25C-40C


Bromine (symbol Br and atomic number 35) and mercury (symbol Hg and atomic
number 80) are both liquids at room temperature. Bromine is a reddish-brown liquid,
with a melting point of 265.9 K. Mercury is a toxic shiny silvery metal, with a melting
point of 234.32 K.
Francium, cesium, gallium, and rubidium are four elements that melt at
temperatures slightly higher than room temperature. Francium (symbol Fr and
atomic number 87), a radioactive and reactive metal, melts around 300 K. Francium
is the most electropositive of all the elements. Cesium (symbol Cs and atomic
number 55), a soft metal that violently reacts with water, melts at 301.59 K. The low
melting point and softness of francium and cesium are a consequence of the size of
their atoms. In fact, cesium atoms are larger than those of any other element.
Gallium (symbol Ga and atomic number 31), a grayish metal, melts at 303.3 K.
Gallium can be melted by body temperature, as in a gloved hand. Rubidium (symbol
Rb and atomic number 37) is soft, silvery-white reactive metal, with a melting point
of 312.46 K. Rubidium spontaneously ignites to form rubidium oxide. Like cesium,
rubidium reacts violently with water.
Acid-Base Indicators
Acid-base indicators, or pH indicators, are commonly used in chemistry to test the
acidity of a water-based solution. Here's a look at what acid-base indicators are, how
they are used, and a table of indicators, listing their pH range, color range, and how
much to use to test a solution.

What is an acid-base indicator?

An acid-base indicator is a weak acid or a weak base. The undissociated form of the
indicator is a different color than the iogenic form of the indicator. An Indicator does
not change color from pure acid to pure alkaline at specific hydrogen ion
concentration, but rather, color change occurs over a range of hydrogen ion
concentrations. This range is termed the color change interval. It is expressed as a
pH range.

How is an indicator used?

Weak acids are titrated in the presence of indicators which change under slightly
alkaline conditions. Weak bases should be titrated in the presence of indicators which
change under slightly acidic conditions.

What are some common acid-base indicators?

Several acid-base indicators are listed below, some more than once if
they can be used over multiple pH ranges. Quantity of indicator in
aqueous (aq.) or alcohol (alc.) solution is specified. Tried-and-true
indicators include: thymol blue, tropeolin OO, methyl yellow, methyl
orange, bromphenol blue, bromcresol green, methyl red, bromthymol
blue, phenol red, neutral red, phenolphthalein, thymolphthalein,
alizarin yellow, tropeolin O, nitramine, and trinitrobenzoic acid. Data in
this table are for sodium salts of thymol blue, bromphenol blue,
tetrabromphenol blue, bromcresol green, methyl red, bromthymol blue,
phenol red, and cresol red.

Indicator pH Range Quantity per 10 ml Acid Base

Thymol Blue 1.2-2.8 1-2 drops 0.1% soln. in aq. red yellow
Pentamethoxy red 1.2-2.3 1 drop 0.1% soln. in 70% alc. red-violet colorless
Tropeolin OO 1.3-3.2 1 drop 1% aq. soln. red yellow
2,4-Dinitrophenol 2.4-4.0 1-2 drops 0.1% soln. in 50% alc. colorless yellow
Methyl yellow 2.9-4.0 1 drop 0.1% soln. in 90% alc. red yellow
Methyl orange 3.1-4.4 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. red orange
Bromphenol blue 3.0-4.6 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow blue-violet
Tetrabromphenol blue 3.0-4.6 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow blue
Alizarin sodium sulfonate 3.7-5.2 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow violet
-Naphthyl red 3.7-5.0 1 drop 0.1% soln. in 70% alc. red yellow
p-Ethoxychrysoidine 3.5-5.5 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. red yellow
Bromcresol green 4.0-5.6 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow blue
Methyl red 4.4-6.2 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. red yellow
Bromcresol purple 5.2-6.8 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow purple
Chlorphenol red 5.4-6.8 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow red
Bromphenol blue 6.2-7.6 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow blue
p-Nitrophenol 5.0-7.0 1-5 drops 0.1% aq. soln. colorless yellow
Azolitmin 5.0-8.0 5 drops 0.5% aq. soln. red blue
Phenol red 6.4-8.0 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow red
Neutral red 6.8-8.0 1 drop 0.1% soln. in 70% alc. red yellow
Rosolic acid 6.8-8.0 1 drop 0.1% soln. in 90% alc. yellow red
Cresol red 7.2-8.8 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow red
-Naphtholphthalein 7.3-8.7 1-5 drops 0.1% soln. in 70% alc. rose green
Tropeolin OOO 7.6-8.9 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow rose-red
Thymol blue 8.0-9.6 1-5 drops 0.1% aq. soln. yellow blue
Phenolphthalein 8.0-10.0 1-5 drops 0.1% soln. in 70% alc. colorless red
-Naphtholbenzein 9.0-11.0 1-5 drops 0.1% soln. in 90% alc. yellow blue
Thymolphthalein 9.4-10.6 1 drop 0.1% soln. in 90% alc. colorless blue
Nile blue 10.1-11.1 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. blue red
Alizarin yellow 10.0-12.0 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow lilac
Salicyl yellow 10.0-12.0 1-5 drops 0.1% soln. in 90% alc. yellow orange-brown
Diazo violet 10.1-12.0 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow violet
Tropeolin O 11.0-13.0 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. yellow orange-brown
Nitramine 11.0-13.0 1-2 drops 0.1% soln in 70% alc. colorless orange-brown
Poirrier's blue 11.0-13.0 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. blue violet-pink
Trinitrobenzoic acid 12.0-13.4 1 drop 0.1% aq. soln. colorless orange-red

Why Doesn't Increasing Atomic Number Always

Increase Atomic Weight?
Frequently Asked Chemistry Questions
~ Anne Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Atomic number is the number of protons in an atom and atomic weight or atomic
mass is the mass of protons, neutrons, and electrons in an atom, so it would seem
reasonable that increasing the number of protons would correspond to an increase in
atomic mass. This isn't always the case. For example, the atomic mass listed on the
periodic table for cobalt (atomic number 27) is higher than that for nickel (atomic
number 28). Uranium (number 92) is more massive than neptunium (number 93). If
you check different periodic tables, you may even find different values listed for the
atomic masses.

The reason increasing atomic number doesn't always increase mass is because the
atomic mass listed on the periodic table is an average mass for all isotopes of that
element. Isotopes are defined by the number of neutrons in an atom, which may be
different from the number of protons. If a sizeable fraction of an element of lower
atomic number exists in the form of heavy isotopes, then the mass of that element
may (overall) be heavier than that of the next element.

If all elements had a number of neutrons equal to the number of protons, then
atomic mass would be approximately twice the atomic number (approximately since
protons and neutrons don't have exactly the same mass, while the mass of electrons
is very very small). Different periodic tables give differing atomic masses because
the percentage of isotopes of an element are recalculated from time to time.

Endothermic & Exothermic Reactions

Introduction to Thermochemistry
~ Anne Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Exothermic Reactions

Many chemical reactions release energy in the form of heat, light, or sound. These
are exothermic reactions.Exothermic reactions may occur spontaneously and result
in higher randomness or entropy (S > 0) of the system. They are denoted by a
negative heat flow (heat is lost to the surroundings) and decrease in enthalpy (H <
0). Exothermic reactions produce heat or may even be explosive.

Endothermic Reactions

Other chemical reactions must absorb energy from the environment in order to
proceed. These are endothermic reactions. Endothermic reactions cannot occur
spontaneously. Work must be done in order to get these reactions to occur. When
endothermic reactions absorb energy, a temperature drop can be measured during
the reaction. Endothermic reactions are characterized by positive heat flow (into the
reaction) and an increase in enthalpy (H).

Examples of Endothermic and Exothermic Processes

One example of an endothermic chemical reaction is photosynthesis. During

photosynthesis, plants use the energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and
water into glucose and oxygen. The reaction requires 15MJ of energy (sunlight) for
every kilogram of glucose that is produced:

sunlight + 6CO2(g) + H2O(l) = C6H12O6(aq) + 6O2(g)

An example of an exothermic reaction is the mixture of sodium and chlorine to yield

table salt. This reaction produces 411 kJ of energy for each mole of salt that is

Na(s) + 0.5Cl2(s) = NaCl(s)

Note: Technically, exothermic only refers to reactions that release heat and
endothermic reactions are those that absorb heat. It's more inclusive and accurate to
use the terms exergonic and endergonic, which refer to releasing and absorbing
energy in any form

Why Is Stainless Steel Stainless?

In 1913, English metallurgist Harry Brearly was working on a project to improve rifle
barrels when he made a serendipitous discovery. He noticed that adding chromium
to low carbon steel gives it stain resistance. Voila! Stainless steel was born. It turns
out adding at least 12% chromium to steel causes to resist rust, or stain 'less' than
other types of steel. The chromium in the steel combines with oxygen in air to form a
thin, invisible layer of chrome-containing oxide, called the passive film. The sizes of
chromium atoms and their oxides are similar, so they pack neatly together on the
surface of the metal, forming a stable layer only a few atoms thick. Modern stainless
steels contain iron, carbon, and chromium, but they may also include other metals,
such as nickel, niobium, molybdenum, and titanium. Nickel, molybdenum, niobium,
and chromium enhance the corrosion resistance of stainless steel.

So, what happens then the surface of stainless steel is damaged? If the metal is cut
or scratched and the passive film is disrupted, more oxide quickly forms over the
exposed surface, protecting it from oxidative corrosion. Oxygen is required for
passive film formation, so stainless steels have poor corrosion resistance in low-
oxygen and poor circulation environments. In seawater, chlorides from the salt will
attack and destroy the passive film more quickly than it can be repaired, unless
there is also good exposure to air.