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Water and its Autoionization

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Water's essential role in the human body encompasses temperature regulation, nutrient transport, and waste removal. It constitutes about 60% of an adult's body weight and is crucial for cellular function and cognitive performance. The text delves into the autoionization of water, a chemical reaction that produces hydronium and hydroxide ions, influencing the pH of solutions. Understanding this process is vital for various scientific and medical applications, as it affects the equilibrium constant, Kw, and the pH scale.

The Essential Role of Water in the Human Body

Water is a fundamental component of the human body, making up approximately 60% of an adult's body weight. It plays a crucial role in various physiological processes, including temperature regulation, nutrient transport, and waste removal. Water is also essential for maintaining cellular structure and function. Proper hydration is necessary for optimal cognitive performance, as even mild dehydration can impair mental functions such as attention, memory, and motor coordination. The water in our bodies is not just pure H2O; it also contains small quantities of hydronium (H3O+) and hydroxide (OH−) ions, which result from the natural autoionization of water.
Transparent glass beaker with water and bubbles on white surface, partially immersed green leaf, neutral gray background.

Understanding Autoionization of Water

Autoionization, or self-ionization of water, is a chemical process in which two water molecules react to produce a hydronium ion (H3O+) and a hydroxide ion (OH−). This occurs because water is amphoteric, meaning it can act as both an acid and a base according to the Bronsted-Lowry theory. A water molecule can lose a proton, becoming a hydroxide ion, while another water molecule can gain a proton, becoming a hydronium ion. This reversible reaction establishes a dynamic equilibrium in pure water and is fundamental to the concept of pH in aqueous solutions.

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Water's role in temperature regulation

Water absorbs and redistributes body heat, maintaining stable internal temperature.


Water's function in nutrient transport and waste removal

Water dissolves nutrients for cellular uptake and flushes out metabolic waste via excretory systems.


Effects of mild dehydration on cognitive performance

Mild dehydration can lead to impaired attention, memory, and motor coordination.


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