|Does atoms, neutrons, protons, nucleus have
anything to do with the chemical reaction of
vinegar and baking soda, and if so, why?|
|Question Date: 2018-02-07|
The nuclei (plural for nucleus) and neutrons do
not participate directly in this reaction, but
the electrons do . When vinegar (acetic acid)
reacts with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate),
the bicarbonate (baking soda) takes a proton
from the acetic acid (vinegar), leaving the
acetic acid with extra electrons and a negative
charge, and this "leftover" substance is now
called acetate. At this point, the
bicarbonate has become carbonic acid because of
the proton it has taken. The carbonic acid then
turns into carbon dioxide and water - the
carbon dioxide is what creates the gas bubbles!
The reactions happen when we mix vinegar and
baking soda because different elements have
different affinities for electrons, meaning that
elements have different degrees to which they
accept electrons. Elements on the right side of
the periodic table accept electrons more readily
than elements on the left side, so the right
side is usually negatively charged in molecules (a
group of atoms connected to one another by
chemical bonds that depend on how attracted the
atoms are to one another) and the left side is
usually positively charged.
How much an element "likes" electrons
depends on how many protons it has in its nucleus,
how many electrons it already has, and other
factors as well . In fact, chemistry is the
study of how atoms interact with each other
through their electrons, protons, and so on, so
any chemical reaction will involve electrons in
Yes! These things play their parts in the
reaction of vinegar and baking soda.
Atoms are the smallest things that make up
different chemicals. Baking soda and vinegar
have atoms of sodium and oxygen and carbon and
Neutrons and protons stay in the nucleus of
the atom, so they just make the atom be the
kind of atom it is - Sodium [Na], Carbon [C],
Oxygen [O] or whatever. Hydrogen [H] has one
proton and no neutrons in its nucleus. It's the
Living cells can have a nucleus, too. The cell
nucleus and the atomic nucleus are totally
different. The cell nucleus is filled with
many many molecules. The atomic nucleus is
filled with sub-atomic particles, which are mainly
protons and neutrons.
Electrons are sub-atomic particles with a
negative charge that move around outside the
nucleus. Protons have positive charges, so
there are the same number of protons and electrons
in an atom, which gives it a charge of zero .
But some atoms like sodium [Na] have an electron
that doesn't stay close to the nucleus. That
electron goes off to attach to some other atom.
The sodium atom becomes a sodium ion
a charge of +1. In table salt, the other atom
is chlorine [Cl], and it 'wants' another electron,
so it takes the one Na is giving up, and you get
salt, Na Cl = Na+ and
The chemical name of baking soda is sodium
bicarbonate. The sodium gives its extra
electron to the bicarbonate, which is made from
carbon dioxide and water. It's
Vinegar's chemical name is acetic acid.
There's a hydrogen [H] in vinegar that 'wants' to
give up its electron and go off as H+, which then
gets water molecules all around it. H+ is a
hydrogen ion, and it's also just a proton.
That leaves the acetate with a minus [-] charge.
CH3COO- is 'acetate'.
When you mix baking soda and vinegar, the
vinegar's acetate, CH3COO-,
and the baking soda's sodium, Na+,
don't do much.
But the H+ and the bicarbonate,
react strongly together to make water,
H2O, and carbon dioxide,
CO2, which is a gas! That gives us
all the bubbles.
The chemical reaction is
H+ and HCO3-
equals H2O and
You can count the H's, O's, and the C on each
side of the equation and see that they are the
same. [Oops! I wrote it wrong and had to fix it.
I think it's ok now.]
My little granddaughter loves to play with
baking soda and vinegar and other stuff like salt
and pepper in water. She likes to make big
messes, which she calls 'science.' Baking soda
with vinegar makes a really strong solution for
cleaning things. My granddaughter's
'science' has taken the shiny finish off part of
the shelf that runs between my kitchen and dining
room. That's ok, though, because I put the shiny
finish on myself, so I can put it on again.
Vinegar is acetic acid,
meaning that each molecule of acetic acid contains
two atoms of carbon, four of hydrogen, and two of
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate,
NaHCO3 , meaning that each molecule
of sodium bicarbonate contains one atom of sodium,
one of hydrogen, one of carbon, and three of
The products of the reaction are carbon
dioxide (CO2, or one atom carbon, two
oxygen), water (H20, two hydrogen, one
oxygen), and sodium acetate
sodium, two carbon, three hydrogen, two oxygen).
The protons in the nucleus determine the
electric charge of the atom, which in turn
determines how many electrons the atom has.
The charge and electrons determine the chemistry.
The neutrons, however, don't do much chemically,
because they have no charge.
As you may know, vinegar and baking soda are
molecules. Molecules are made of atoms. Atoms
are made of electrons and the nucleus. The nucleus
is made of protons and neutrons. Chemical
reactions happen when atoms from one molecule move
to another molecule. For this to happen,
molecular bonds need to get broken and formed.
Molecular bonds are simply electrons shared
between two atoms . However, the vinegar and
baking soda reaction is somewhat special because
it is an acid-base reaction.
In acid-base reactions, the moving atoms
are actually just protons (yes,
H+ is a special case where
the whole atom is just a proton. So, a
proton is also the whole nucleus). In the end, the
short answer to your question is that all of
the structures you mentioned are involved in the
Both vinegar and baking soda are molecules, not
single atoms, which means that they are made up
of different atoms joined together by chemical
bonds. As you know, atoms are made of a
nucleus of protons and neutrons surrounded by
electrons. Two atoms can join together and form a
chemical bond if they share one or more electrons.
So you can think of two atoms in a molecule having
individual nuclei (made of protons and neutrons)
sitting next to each other and sharing
electrons between them to make a molecule.
A chemical bond can either be ionic,
meaning that the electron is not shared equally,
but prefers to be with one of the atoms, or it
can be covalent, meaning that the electron is
shared equally between the two atoms. Any chemical
reaction, including vinegar and baking soda,
involves breaking some of these chemical bonds and
forming new bonds between the atoms to make
different molecules. It is important that the
same individual atoms (the same number of protons,
neutrons, and electrons) that are present before
the reaction must be present after the
reaction (so the individual atoms do not
change), but the bonds between the atoms are
different to make different molecules.
This is a really interesting question because
it touches on one of the most important parts of
chemistry: what makes certain chemicals the way
All molecules (like the ones that make vinegar
and baking soda) are built by combining a specific
number of atoms in the correct way. These atoms
can come in a variety of different “flavors”
called elements. You need to have the right
flavors in the correct amounts to make a
particular molecule. You may be wondering now,
what makes each element different from each
Atoms can be further broken down into
protons, neutrons, and electrons, and each
element has a certain number of each of these.
Protons and neutrons are found in the center of
the atom (also called the nucleus) while
electrons are found outside the nucleus. The
only difference between the atoms of one element
verses another is the number of protons, neutrons,
and electrons that make up the atoms of each
element. Each element has certain properties
(similar to behaviors or feelings that different
people have) and when they combine, they make
molecules that reflect those properties. When
certain molecules combine, like those in vinegar
and baking soda, they react according to the
properties of the molecules.
So to finally answer your question, yes:
protons, neutrons, and electrons contribute to how
an atom behaves and atoms contribute to how
molecules behave. Thank you for your question!
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