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Quantitative measure of the strength of the acidity or alkalinity (seeacid; base) of a solution. It is defined as the negative common logarithm of the concentration of hydrogen ions [H+] in moles/litre: pH = log [H+]. The letters of its name are derived from the absolute value of the power (p) of the hydrogen ion concentration (H). The product of the concentrations in water of H+ and OH (the hydroxide ion) is always about 1014. The strongest acid solution has more than 1 mole/litre of H+ (and about 1014 of OH), for a pH of less than 0. The strongest basic solution has about 1014 mole/litre of H+ (and about 1 of OH), for a pH of 14. A neutral solution has about 107 mole/litre of both H+ and OH, for a pH of 7. The pH value, measured by a pH meter, titration, or indicator (e.g., litmus) strips, helps inform chemists of the nature, composition, or extent of reaction of substances, biologists of the composition and environment of organisms or their parts or fluids, physicians of the functioning of bodily systems, and agronomists of the suitability of soils for crops and any treatments needed. The pH is now defined in electrochemical terms (seeelectrochemistry).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pH, visit Britannica.com.