Is Ammonium chloride (NH4Cl) an acid or base? Weak vs Strong

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Is NH4Cl an acid or base or neutral? - Ammonium chloride

Ammonium chloride is also known as the salt of ammonia and hydrogen chloride an inorganic compound that appears as a white crystalline solid having the chemical formula NH4Cl. It is highly soluble in water and mainly used for the production of fertilizer. 

The solution of ammonium chloride is slightly acidic. In this article, we will discuss Is NH4Cl an acid or base? Its conjugates and salt nature, etc.

So, Is NH4Cl an acid or base? NH4Cl is an acidic salt in nature formed from the neutralization of strong acid (HCl) with a weak base (NH4OH). The aqueous solution of ammonium chloride is slightly acidic having a pH value range from 4.5 to 6. 

Ammonium chloride is a strong electrolyte because it dissolved fully into ions or 100% ionized in an aqueous solution.

Name of MoleculeAmmonium chloride
Chemical formulaNH4Cl
Molar mass53.49 g·mol−1
pH value4.5 – 6
NatureAcidic salt
Acidity (pKa)9.24

Why NH4Cl acts as acidic salt?

As we know, NH4Cl is a salt of a weak base(NH4OH) and strong acid(HCl). According to the concept of salt, when a neutralization reaction carries out between a strong base and weak acid then the salt is formed which is called a basic salt. Examples of basic salt – Na2CO3, NaF, NaCN, Soap, etc.

Also Read:-

And when neutralization reaction carries out between a weak base and strong acid then the salt is formed which is called acidic salt. Examples – NH4NO3, NH4Br, etc.

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Therefore, we can say the salt generated from the neutralization reaction is dependent on the strength of the acid-base in the reaction.

A stronger base + weak acid will acquire more property of base instead of acid in solution and a stronger acid + weak base will acquire more property of acid instead of the base in solution.

⇒ Strong base + Weak acid = Basic solution

⇒ Stronger acid + Weak base = Acidic solution

So, in the case of ammonium chloride, a neutralization reaction happens between the weak base(NH4OH) and strong acid(HCl) so, it will make an acidic salt.

is NH4Cl acidic salt?

What makes the aqueous solution of NH4Cl acidic?

An aqueous solution of NH4Cl has an acidic property with a pH value range from 4.5 to 6. But what’s the reason for this other than the neutralization concept of stronger acid and base.

When NH4Cl goes through the hydrolysis process, it split into two ions (NH4+ + Cl).

NH4Cl + H2O → NH4+ + Cl

NH4+ also called ammonium ion is the conjugate acid of ammonia and chloride ion(Cl) is a conjugate base of hydrogen chloride.

Here’s the concept of strong and weak conjugate base/acid:-

  • A very strong acid always forms a weak conjugate base.
  • A very strong base always forms a weak conjugate acid.
  • A very weak acid always forms a strong conjugate base.
  • A very weak base always forms a strong conjugate acid.

Note: The conjugate acid from the strong base and conjugate base from the strong acid can never function as acid and base, since, they are too weak to either react with H+ and OH ions in water solution. Hence, doesn’t affect the pH of the solution.

So, when NH4Cl is added to water, it generates two ions ammonium ion(NH4+) and a chloride ion(Cl-).

NH4Cl → NH4+ + Cl

Cl is a very weak conjugate base of HCl(a strong acid), hence, it will not undergo hydrolysis in water and doesn’t affect the pH of the solution. You can even neglect the presence of Cl in solution since it failed to function as a base.

Whereas NH4+ is the conjugate acid of NH3(a weak base) that gets hydrolysis in water to form NH3, leaving H3O+ or H+ ions that make the solution acidic.

NH4+ undergo hydrolysis process.

Why the aqueous solution of NH4Cl is acidic?

As you see in the above reaction, NH4+ donates the proton to the water molecule and forms the H3O+ or H+ ion. The presence of an H+ ion makes the solution slightly acidic. Here’s what Arrhenius said for acid-

Arrhenius theory for acid:

According to this, a compound is an acid when it gives H+ ions on dissolving in an aqueous solution or increases the amount of hydrogen ion in the solution.

So, the Ammonium ion(NH4+) undergoes hydrolysis process and furnishes the protons in water solution, hence, increases the number of hydrogen ions or H3O+ ions in a solution which ultimately makes the solution acidic or we can say the aqueous solution of ammonium chloride(NH4Cl) is acidic due to hydrolysis of NH4+.

⇒ NH4Cl → NH4+ + Cl

⇒ NH4+ + H2O → NH3 + H3O+     

⇒ NH4Cl → NH3 + H3O+ + Cl     

∴ The presence of H3O+ ion in the aqueous solution of NH4Cl makes it acidic in nature.

Why NH4Cl not a base or basic salt?

A base is defined as the proton acceptor having a pH value range from 8 to 14. 

Two theories that explain what is base in chemistry:-

(1). Arrhenius theory for base: 

According to the Arrhenius concept, the compound is said to be base when it produces OH ion through ionization or through dissociation in water.

(2). Bronsted-Lowry concept: 

According to the Bronsted-Lowry concept, a compound is said to be base when it accepts the proton from other compounds.

So, NH4Cl is not a base because it doesn’t satisfy any of these theories. As when NH4Cl is dissolved in an aqueous solution it produces an H+ ion with the help of hydrolysis of NH4+, this makes the solution acidic as there is no OH- ion present in the final solution after dissociation of NH4Cl.

is NH4Cl acid or base or neutral

As per Bronsted-Lowry theory, NH4Cl is also not a base because its NH4+ ion is the conjugate acid of a weak base(NH3) that doesn’t accept the proton from another species or compound. So, the ion of NH4Cl behaves as a proton donor rather than a proton acceptor.

Also, NH4Cl is not a basic salt because it is formed from the combination of strong acid and weak bases that always produce acidic salt.

The concept of acidic salt and basic salt:-

⇒ Strong base + Weak acid = Basic salt

⇒ Stronger acid + Weak base = Acidic salt

Properties of Ammonium chloride

  • It has a molar mass of 53.49 g·mol−1.
  • It appears as white solid crystalline.
  • It is highly soluble in water.
  • It has a boiling point of 520 °C and a melting point of 338 °C.
  • It has a pH value ranging from 4.6 to 6.0.

Preparation of Ammonium chloride

Ammonium chloride is one of the products of the Solvay process used for the production of sodium carbonate.

⇒ CO2 + 2NH3 + 2NaCl + H2O → 2NH4Cl + Na2CO3

Ammonium chloride can also be prepared by combining ammonia with hydrogen chloride.

⇒ NH3 + HCl → NH4Cl

Uses of Ammonium chloride

  1. The production of fertilizers is the main use of ammonium chloride.
  2. NH4Cl used as the electrolyte in Leclanché cells.
  3. It is used for lowering the temperature in cooling baths or showers.
  4. It is used as an ingredient in cough medicine.
  5. It is used as an acidifier.

Summary

Ammonium chloride is an inorganic compound that appears as a white crystalline solid mainly used for the production of fertilizer. It has a pH value ranging from 4.5 to 6. Let’s cover the important point we discussed in this article on whether NH4Cl is an acid or base.

  • Is NH4Cl an acid or base? NH4Cl is slightly acidic made from the neutralization reaction of strong acid(HCl) and weak base(NH4OH).
  • The aqueous solution of NH4Cl is acidic because of the presence of H+ ions or H3O+ ions produced from the hydrolysis of NH4+.
  • When NH4Cl dissolved in an aqueous solution it split into NH4+ and Cl. The ammonium ion is the conjugate acid of the weak base that can donate the proton to the water molecule and produces H+ or H3O+ ions in the solution that makes the aqueous solution of NH4Cl slightly acidic.
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