The Chemical EducatorISSN: 14304171 (electronic version) Abstract Volume 15
(2010) pp 257263 The pH of Aqueous Ammonium Hydrogen Carbonate: Lessons from Mathematics and ChemistryAlejandro C. Olivieri Departamento de Química Analítica, Facultad de Ciencias
Bioquímicas y Farmacéuticas, Universidad Nacional de Rosario e Instituto
de Química Rosario (IQUIRCONICET), Suipacha 531, Rosario (2000), Argentina,
aolivier@fbioyf.unr.edu.ar Published: 20 July 2010 Abstract. The calculation of the pH of an aqueous solution of ammonium hydrogen carbonate is discussed. Two different approaches are employed for this purpose: 1) a purely mathematical one, based on the use of numerical methods for finding polynomial roots, and 2) a chemically intuitive one based on simple acidbase chemistry considerations. While numerical methods yield the correct answer, they provide no chemical insight into the problem. The chemical approach is shown to give a reasonably good approximation with simple mathematical operations. Several additional cases of salts with analogous composition to ammonium hydrogen carbonate are also discussed, with emphasis on the possible violations of the simplifying assumptions adopted by the chemically intuitive method. In some of the latter cases, the simplified answers can be significantly improved by chemical intuition.
Key Words: In the Classroom; general chemistry (*) Corresponding author. (Email: aolivier@fbioyf.unr.edu.ar) Article in PDF format (123 KB) HTML format page number change 7/31/2010
