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Tips for Classifying Electrolytes - Concept

Teacher/Instructor Jonathan Fong
Jonathan Fong

M.Ed.,San Francisco State Univ.

Jonathan has been teaching since 2000 and currently teaches chemistry at a top-ranked high school in San Francisco.

Here are some tips and tricks for classifying electrolytes. As you know, there are three types of electrolytes, strong electrolytes, weak electrolytes and non electrolytes.

Strong electrolytes basically fall into three categories. So you have strong acids are strong electrolytes. Strong electrolytes fully ionized. So what happens is, if you put a little electricity to them and you have a little light bulb, and then the light bulb will actually light up, nice and bright, because there’s lots of ions in that solution. In the case of strong acids, in water are strong electrolytes.

Strong bases are also strong electrolytes. If you don’t know what the strong acids and strong bases are, take a look at our video about figuring out if an acid or base is strong or weak, and that will help you out.

And then also ionic salts. Those are ones that based on your solubility rules they dissolve in water. They dissolve in water and then they ionize, which means they make ions. So ionic salts. Examples would be like say, NaCl, Sodium Chloride. When that is put in water, it makes Na+ ions and Cl- ions, so ionic salts. Those three types of things are strong electrolytes.

Then we get to weak electrolytes. There are only two groups here. Weak electrolytes only, they partially ionize, so not as bright as strong electrolytes. We draw a little picture of a light bulb and then it's kind of like a couple of lines. Not as bright. Weak acids are weak electrolytes, and weak bases are weak electrolytes. If you’re not sure how to figure out if something is a weak acid or a weak base, then you can either check it out using a connectivity apparatus. But if you don’t have access to one, check out our video about weak acids and weak bases, how to figure out if they are. Now that’s along with the strong acids and strong bases.

The last type is non electrolytes. When you put them in water, what happens is that light bulb does not shine at all. It doesn’t even light up. And it’s because there are no ions that are present in the solution to conduct electricity. So non electrolytes will basically be any other type of thing that you have, but mainly, covalent compounds that dissolve in water. An example could be something like a sugar water solution. That would be an example of a non electrolyte.

If you use these things, strong acids, strong bases, ionic salts, they’re strong electrolytes. Know that weak acids and weak bases are strong electrolytes and then everything else would be non electrolytes. Hopefully these shortcuts will help you out in classifying electrolytes. Have a good one.