Electrolytes are compounds that can conduct electricity once they are dissolved in a solvent.
Concept #1: The Classification of Electrolytes
Whenever you add a solute to a solvent there are three possible outcomes: the solute dissolves completely, dissolves partially or doesn't dissolve at all into ions.
Concept #2: The Strong Electrolytes
Strong Electrolytes break up into ions completely and are grouped into 3 categories: Strong Acids, Strong Bases and Soluble Ionic Compounds.
Concept #3: The Weak Electrolytes
Weak Electrolytes partially break up into ions and are grouped into 2 categories: Weak Acids and Weak Bases.
Concept #4: The Non-Electrolytes
Non-Electrolytes do NOT break up into ions at all and are commonly referred to as molecular compounds.
Example #1: Each of the following reactions depicts a solute dissolving in water. Classify each solute as a strong electrolyte, a weak electrolyte or a non-electrolyte.
a. PbSO4 (s) → PbSO4 (aq)
b. HC2H3O2 (aq) ⇌ H+ (aq) + C2H3O2– (aq)
c. CaS (s) → Ca2+(aq) + S2- (aq)
d. Hg (l) → Hg (aq)
Based on different classifications of electrolytes we can expand to other compounds.
Practice: Classify each of the following solutes as either a strong electrolyte, a weak electrolyte or a non-electrolyte.
a. Perbromic acid, HBrO4
b. Lithium chloride, LiCl
c. Formic Acid, HCO2H
d. Methylamine, CH3NH2
e. Zinc bromide, ZnBr2
f. Propanol, C3H8OH