Definition of a Feeble acid?

  1. Definition of a "Feeble" acid?

    I'm currently trying to re-familiarize myself with chemistry, after a very long absence of any study in this field. At the moment I'm working my way through the text "Fundamentals of Chemistry" by "David E Goldberg" and I notice the author introduces the concept of "feeble" acids (and bases).

    I was familiar with the concept of weak (partially dissociated) acids versus strong (near 100% dissociated) acids. However the distinction between a weak acid and a feeble acid is not something I've come across before.

    It's clear from the text that a "feeble" acid is weaker than a "weak" acid, but the author doesn't make it all that clear where exactly "weak" ends and "feeble" begins. Googling for the term "feeble acid" doesn't seem to reveal many relevant hits, so I'm not even sure how widely this distinction between weak/feeble is actually used.

    Just wondering if anyone can shed a bit more light on this for me. Is there a particular value of dissociation constant (say 10^-8 for example) below which one can say that an acid is feeble?
  2. jcsd
  3. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    First time I hear this term. And while I definitely don't know everything I have spent substantial amount of time studying the subject.
  4. NascentOxygen

    Staff: Mentor

    In his textbook, did Goldberg name any feeble acids?
  5. Yes, he gives Boric acid (HBH2O3) and Phenol (HOC6H5) as examples of "feeble" acids. I looked these up and they both have dissociation constants order of magnitude around 10^-10. By contrast the examples of weak acids he gives tend to have dissociation constants around 10^-4 and 10^-5.
  6. Ok thanks. That tends to confirm my suspicion that this distinction is not so widely used. Perhaps it's one of the authors own "thangs".

    BTW. He introduces this terminology while discussing the concept of conjugate acids and bases. He explains how the stronger the acid the weaker it's conjugate base and vise versa. However he then claims that the conjugate of a strong acid is NOT a weak base, but rather a "feeble" base. And similarly that the conjugate of a strong base is not a weak acid, but rather a "feeble" acid.

    He defines these conjugate pair relationships as follows.

    acid/base <=> conjugate base/acid
    strong <=> feeble
    weak <=> weak
    feeble <=> strong
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2014
  7. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    Never seen it. As far as I know there is no difference between weak and "feeble" conjugate acids/bases - other that quantitative (ie. very small Ka/Kb).
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