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Alkalinity or AT measures the ability of a solution to neutralize acids
An acid is a substance which reacts with a base. Commonly, acids can be identified as tasting sour, reacting with metals such as calcium, and bases like sodium carbonate. Aqueous acids have a pH of less than 7, where an acid of lower pH is typically stronger, and turn blue litmus paper red...

 to the equivalence point
Equivalence point
The equivalence point, or stoichiometric point, of a chemical reaction when a titrant is added and is stoichiometrically equal to the amount of moles of substance present in the sample: the smallest amount of titrant that is sufficient to fully neutralize or react with the analyte...

 of carbonate or bicarbonate. The alkalinity is equal to the stoichiometric sum of the base
Base (chemistry)
For the term in genetics, see base A base in chemistry is a substance that can accept hydrogen ions or more generally, donate electron pairs. A soluble base is referred to as an alkali if it contains and releases hydroxide ions quantitatively...

s in solution. In the natural environment carbonate alkalinity
Carbonate alkalinity
Carbonate alkalinity is a measure of the amount of carbonate and bicarbonate anions in solution. Carbonate and bicarbonate anions contribute to alkalinity due to their basic nature, hence their ability to neutralize acid...

 tends to make up most of the total alkalinity due to the common occurrence and dissolution of carbonate
In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt of carbonic acid, characterized by the presence of the carbonate ion, . The name may also mean an ester of carbonic acid, an organic compound containing the carbonate group C2....

 rocks and presence of carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 in the atmosphere. Other common natural components that can contribute to alkalinity include borate
Borates are chemical compounds which contain oxoanions of boron in oxidation state +3. The simplest borate ion, BO33−, has a trigonal planar structure. Other borates are made up of trigonal BO3 or tetrahedral BO4 structural units, sharing oxygen atoms...

, hydroxide
Hydroxide is a diatomic anion with chemical formula OH−. It consists of an oxygen and a hydrogen atom held together by a covalent bond, and carrying a negative electric charge. It is an important but usually minor constituent of water. It functions as a base, as a ligand, a nucleophile, and a...

, phosphate
A phosphate, an inorganic chemical, is a salt of phosphoric acid. In organic chemistry, a phosphate, or organophosphate, is an ester of phosphoric acid. Organic phosphates are important in biochemistry and biogeochemistry or ecology. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in...

, silicate
A silicate is a compound containing a silicon bearing anion. The great majority of silicates are oxides, but hexafluorosilicate and other anions are also included. This article focuses mainly on the Si-O anions. Silicates comprise the majority of the earth's crust, as well as the other...

, nitrate
The nitrate ion is a polyatomic ion with the molecular formula NO and a molecular mass of 62.0049 g/mol. It is the conjugate base of nitric acid, consisting of one central nitrogen atom surrounded by three identically-bonded oxygen atoms in a trigonal planar arrangement. The nitrate ion carries a...

, dissolved ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

, the conjugate bases
Conjugate acid
Within the Brønsted–Lowry acid-base theory , a conjugate acid is the acid member, HX, of a pair of two compounds that transform into each other by gain or loss of a proton. A conjugate acid can also be seen as the chemical substance that releases, or donates, a proton in the forward chemical...

 of some organic acids and sulfide
A sulfide is an anion of sulfur in its lowest oxidation state of 2-. Sulfide is also a slightly archaic term for thioethers, a common type of organosulfur compound that are well known for their bad odors.- Properties :...

. Solutions produced in a laboratory may contain a virtually limitless number of bases that contribute to alkalinity. Alkalinity is usually given in the unit mEq/L (milliequivalent per liter). Commercially, as in the pool industry, alkalinity might also be given in the unit ppm or parts per million.

Alkalinity is sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably with basicity
Base (chemistry)
For the term in genetics, see base A base in chemistry is a substance that can accept hydrogen ions or more generally, donate electron pairs. A soluble base is referred to as an alkali if it contains and releases hydroxide ions quantitatively...

. For example, the pH of a solution can be lowered by the addition of CO2. This will reduce the basicity; however, the alkalinity will remain unchanged (see example below).

Theoretical treatment of alkalinity

In typical groundwater
Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. A unit of rock or an unconsolidated deposit is called an aquifer when it can yield a usable quantity of water. The depth at which soil pore spaces or fractures and voids in rock...

 or seawater
Seawater is water from a sea or ocean. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% . This means that every kilogram of seawater has approximately of dissolved salts . The average density of seawater at the ocean surface is 1.025 g/ml...

, the measured alkalinity is set equal to:

AT = [HCO3]T + 2[CO3−2]T + [B(OH)4]T + [OH]T + 2[PO4−3]T + [HPO4−2]T + [SiO(OH)3]T − [H+]sws − [HSO4]

(Subscript T indicates the total concentration of the species in the solution as measured. This is opposed to the free concentration, which takes into account the significant amount of ion pair interactions that occur in seawater.)

Alkalinity can be measured by titrating a sample with a strong acid until all the buffering capacity of the aforementioned ions above the pH of bicarbonate or carbonate is consumed. This point is functionally set to pH 4.5. At this point, all the bases of interest have been protonated to the zero level species, hence they no longer cause alkalinity. For example, the following reactions take place during the addition of acid to a typical seawater solution:
HCO3 + H+ → CO2 + H2O

CO3−2 + 2H+ → CO2 + H2O

B(OH)4 + H+ → B(OH)3 + H2O

OH + H+ → H2O

PO4−3 + 2H+ → H2PO4

HPO4−2 + H+ → H2PO4

[SiO(OH)3] + H+ → [Si(OH)40]

It can be seen from the above protonation reactions that most bases consume one proton (H+) to become a neutral species, thus increasing alkalinity by one per equivalent. CO3−2 however, will consume two protons before becoming a zero level species (CO2), thus it increases alkalinity by two per mole of CO3−2. [H+] and [HSO4] decrease alkalinity, as they act as sources of protons. They are often represented collectively as [H+]T.

Alkalinity is typically reported as mg/L of CaCO3. This can be converted into milliEquivalents per Liter (mEq/L) by dividing by 50 (the approximate MW
Molar mass
Molar mass, symbol M, is a physical property of a given substance , namely its mass per amount of substance. The base SI unit for mass is the kilogram and that for amount of substance is the mole. Thus, the derived unit for molar mass is kg/mol...

 of CaCO3/2).

Sum of contributing species

The following equations demonstrate the relative contributions of each component to the alkalinity of a typical seawater sample. Contributions are in μ−soln-1 and are obtained from A Handbook of Methods for the analysis of carbon dioxide parameters in seawater ","(Salinity = 35, pH = 8.1, Temperature = 25°C).

AT = [HCO3]T + 2[CO3−2]T + [B(OH)4]T + [OH]T + 2[PO4−3]T + [HPO4−2]T + [SiO(OH)3]T − [H+] − [HSO4] − [HF]

Phosphates and silicate, being nutrients, are typically negligible. At pH = 8.1 [HSO4] and [HF] are also negligible. So,

AT = [HCO3-]T + 2[CO3−2]T + [B(OH)4]T + [OH]T − [H+]

AT = 1830 + 2*270 + 100 + 10 − 0.01

AT = 2480 μ−soln-1

Addition of CO2

The addition (or removal) of CO2 to a solution does not change the alkalinity. This is because the net reaction produces the same number of equivalents of positively contributing species (H+) as negative contributing species (HCO3- and/or CO32-).

At neutral pH values:

CO2 + H2O → HCO3 + H+

At high pH values:

CO2 + H2O → CO32- + 2H+

Dissolution of carbonate rock

Addition of CO2 to a solution in contact with a solid can affect the alkalinity, especially for carbonate minerals in contact with groundwater or seawater . The dissolution (or precipitation) of carbonate rock has a strong influence on the alkalinity. This is because carbonate rock is composed of CaCO3 and its dissociation will add Ca+2 and CO3−2 into solution. Ca+2 will not influence alkalinity, but CO3−2 will increase alkalinity by 2 units.

Processes that increase alkalinity

There are many methods of alkalinity generation in the ocean. Perhaps the most well known is the dissolution of CaCO3 (calcium carbonate, which is a component of coral reefs) to form Ca2+ and CO32- (carbonate). The carbonate ion has the potential to absorb two hydrogen ions. Therefore, it causes a net increase in ocean alkalinity. Calcium carbonate dissolution is an indirect result of ocean acidification. It can cause great damage to coral reef ecosystems, but seems to have a relatively low effect on the total alkalinity (AT) in the ocean.
Anaerobic degradation processes, such as denitrification and sulfate reduction, have a much greater impact on oceanic alkalinity. Denitrification and sulfate reduction occur in the deep ocean, where there is an absence of oxygen. Both of these processes consume hydrogen ions and releases quasi-inert gases (N2 or H2S), which eventually escape into the atmosphere. This consumption of H+ increases the alkalinity. It has been estimated that anaerobic degradation could be as much as 60% of the total oceanic alkalinity.

Processes that decrease alkalinity

Anaerobic processes generally increase alkalinity. Conversely, aerobic degradation can decrease AT. This process occurs in portions of the ocean where oxygen is present (surface waters). It results in dissolved organic matter and the production of hydrogen ions. An increase in H+ clearly decreases alkalinity. However, the dissolved organic matter may have base functional groups that can consume these hydrogen ions and negate their effect on alkalinity. Therefore, aerobic degradation has a relatively low impact on the overall oceanic alkalinity.
All of these aforementioned methods are chemical processes. However, physical processes can also serve to affect AT. The melting of polar ice caps is a growing concern that can serve to decrease oceanic alkalinity. If the ice were to melt, then the overall volume of the ocean would increase. Because alkalinity is a concentration value (mol/L), increasing the volume would theoretically serve to decrease AT. However, the actual affect would be much more complicated than this.

Global temporal variability

Researchers have shown oceanic alkalinity to vary over time. Because AT is calculated from the ions in the ocean, a change in the chemical composition would alter alkalinity. One way this can occur is through ocean acidification. However, oceanic alkalinity is relatively stable, so significant changes can only occur over long time scales (i.e. hundreds to thousands of years). As a result, seasonal and annual variability is generally very low.

Spatial variability

Researchers have also shown alkalinity to vary depending on location. Local AT can be affected by two main mixing patterns: current and river. Current dominated mixing occurs close to the shore in areas with strong water flow. In these areas, alkalinity trends follow current and have a segmented relationship with salinity.
River dominated mixing also occurs close to the shore; it is strongest close to the mouth of a large river (i.e. the Mississippi or Amazon). Here, the rivers can act as either a source or a sink of alkalinity. AT follows the outflow of the river and has a linear relationship with salinity. This mixing pattern is most important in late winter and spring, because snow melt increases the river’s outflow. As the season progresses into summer, river processes are less significant, and current mixing can become the dominant process.
Oceanic alkalinity also follows general trends based on latitude and depth. It has been shown that AT is often inversely proportional to sea surface temperature (SST). Therefore, it generally increases with high latitudes and depths. As a result, upwelling areas (where water from the deep ocean is pushed to the surface) also have higher alkalinity values.

Measurement Data Sets

Throughout recent history, there have been many attempts to measure, record, and study oceanic alkalinity. Some of the larger data sets are listed below.
GEOSECS (Geochemical Ocean Sections Study)

TTO/NAS (Transient Tracers in the Ocean/North Atlantic Study)

JGOFS (Joint Global Ocean Flux Study)

WOCE (World Ocean Circulation Experiment)

CARINA (Carbon dioxide in the Atlantic Ocean)

See also

  • Alkali soils
    Alkali soils
    Alkali, or alkaline, soils are clay soils with high pH , a poor soil structure and a low infiltration capacity. Often they have a hard calcareous layer at 0.5 to 1 metre depth. Alkali soils owe their unfavorable physico-chemical properties mainly to the dominating presence of sodium carbonate...

  • Biological pump
    Biological pump
    In oceanic biogeochemistry, the biological pump is the sum of a suite of biologically-mediated processes that transport carbon from the surface euphotic zone to the ocean's interior.-Overview:...

  • Dealkalization of water
    Dealkalization of water
    The dealkalization of water refers to the removal of alkalinity ions from water. Chloride cycle anion ion exchange dealkalizers remove alkalinity from water....

  • Global Ocean Data Analysis Project
    Global Ocean Data Analysis Project
    The Global Ocean Data Analysis Project is a synthesis project bringing together oceanographic data collected during the 1990s by research cruises on the World Ocean Circulation Experiment , Joint Global Ocean Flux Study and Ocean-Atmosphere Exchange Study programmes...

  • Ocean acidification
    Ocean acidification
    Ocean acidification is the name given to the ongoing decrease in the pH and increase in acidity of the Earth's oceans, caused by the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere....

  • Base (chemistry)
    Base (chemistry)
    For the term in genetics, see base A base in chemistry is a substance that can accept hydrogen ions or more generally, donate electron pairs. A soluble base is referred to as an alkali if it contains and releases hydroxide ions quantitatively...

Carbonate system calculators

The following packages calculate the state of the carbonate system in seawater (including pH):
  • CO2SYS, available as a stand-alone executable
    In computing, an executable file causes a computer "to perform indicated tasks according to encoded instructions," as opposed to a data file that must be parsed by a program to be meaningful. These instructions are traditionally machine code instructions for a physical CPU...

    , Excel
    Microsoft Excel
    Microsoft Excel is a proprietary commercial spreadsheet application written and distributed by Microsoft for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. It features calculation, graphing tools, pivot tables, and a macro programming language called Visual Basic for Applications...

     spreadsheet, or MATLAB
    MATLAB is a numerical computing environment and fourth-generation programming language. Developed by MathWorks, MATLAB allows matrix manipulations, plotting of functions and data, implementation of algorithms, creation of user interfaces, and interfacing with programs written in other languages,...

  • seacarb, a R package
    R (programming language)
    R is a programming language and software environment for statistical computing and graphics. The R language is widely used among statisticians for developing statistical software, and R is widely used for statistical software development and data analysis....

     for Windows
    Microsoft Windows
    Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

    , Mac OS X
    Mac OS X
    Mac OS X is a series of Unix-based operating systems and graphical user interfaces developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc. Since 2002, has been included with all new Macintosh computer systems...

     and Linux
    Linux is a Unix-like computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution. The defining component of any Linux system is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released October 5, 1991 by Linus Torvalds...

     (also available here)
  • CSYS, a Matlab script
    MATLAB is a numerical computing environment and fourth-generation programming language. Developed by MathWorks, MATLAB allows matrix manipulations, plotting of functions and data, implementation of algorithms, creation of user interfaces, and interfacing with programs written in other languages,...

External links

Category:Chemical oceanography
Category:Acid-base chemistry

nl:Buffer (scheikunde)