|Could you please tell me why the p is little and
the H is capitalized? Our Science book doesn't
explain it. Thanks, Lia Simnacher
|Question Date: 2005-04-07|
"pH" stands for "power of Hydrogen" (it has to do
with the concentration of hydrogen ions in a
sample- since these concentrations are usually
very small they are measured in "powers" i.e.
0.001 mol/L of hydrogen would have a power of 3
and 0.0000001 mol/L of hydrogen would have a power
of 7). The H is capitalized because it is the
atomic symbol for the element hydrogen and the
first letter of atomic symbols are always capitalized.
pH is an old abbreviation for a french description
of the acidity of water.The French term is
"puissance d'hydrogen", which means "power or
strength of Hydrogen". The p is small because it
refers to a word. The H must be capitalized
because the first letter of abbreviations for
chemical elements (in this case Hydrogen) are
always capitalized. Examples would be Ni for
nickel, O for Oxygen, etc. In the scientific
world, p has come to refer to the inverse
logarithm of the concentration of an element, so
people now refer to pOH as -log[OH] , when in
reality this means "puissance d'hydroxide" (the
brackets mean concentration, or amount per volume,
OH is hydroxide, the ion which combines with H to
form water, HOH or H2O).
Lia,The 'H' in pH refers to the concentration of
hydrogen ions in a solution. The chemical symbol
for hydrogen is H, and it's always capitalized.
The 'p' is just a mathematical symbol that means
'negative logarithm.' Logarithm is usually
abbreviated 'log'; logs are an efficient way of
dealing with exponents. If y = 10^x, then log y =
x. So if the concentration of H = 10^-6 M, then
log H = -6. If you multiply this by -1, you get
the negative logarithm, so pH = 6. (If the math
doesn't quite make sense, your teacher can
probably help explain logarithms). Using negative
logs is just a convenient way of dealing with the
large range of concentrations that chemists have
to deal with. Unfortunately I'm not sure why 'p'
is the abbreviation for negative logarithm.
"pH" stands for "power of hydrogen", and the
atomic symbol for hydrogen is H. Because the first
(or, in this case, the only) letter of an
elemental symbol in chemistry is always
capitalized, the H is capitalized.The p is not
capitalized because it is not an element,and
capitalizing it would indicate that we were
talking about phosphorous, for which P is the
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