AskDefine | Define bisulfate

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Alternative spellings


  1. The univalent anion HSO4-
  2. Any salt containing this anion


Univalent anion HSO4-
  • Spanish: bisulfato

Extensive Definition

In inorganic chemistry, a sulfate (IUPAC-recommended spelling; also sulphate in British English) is a salt of sulfuric acid.

Chemical properties

The sulfate ion is a polyatomic anion with the empirical formula SO42− and a molecular mass of 96.06 daltons; it consists of a central sulfur atom surrounded by four equivalent oxygen atoms in a tetrahedral arrangement. The sulfate ion carries a negative two charge and is the conjugate base of the bisulfate (or hydrogen sulfate) ion, HSO4−, which is the conjugate base of H2SO4, sulfuric acid. Organic sulfates, such as dimethyl sulfate, are covalent compounds and esters of sulfuric acid.


Methods of preparing ionic sulfates include:


Many examples of ionic sulfates are known, and many of these are highly soluble in water. Exceptions include calcium sulfate, strontium sulfate, and barium sulfate, which are poorly soluble. The barium derivative is useful in the gravimetric analysis of sulfate: one adds a solution of, perhaps, barium chloride to a solution containing sulfate ions. The appearance of a white precipitate, which is barium sulfate, indicates that sulfate anions are present.
The sulfate ion can act as a ligand attaching either by one oxygen (monodentate) or by two oxygens as either a chelate or a bridge.
Later, Linus Pauling used valence bond theory to propose that the most significant resonance canonicals had two π bonds (see above) involving d orbitals. His reasoning was that the charge on sulfur was thus reduced, in accordance with his principle of electroneutrality. The double bonding was taken by Pauling to account for the shortness of the S-O bond (149 pm).
Pauling's use of d orbitals provoked a debate on the relative importance of π bonding and bond polarity (electrostatic attraction) in causing the shortening of the S-O bond. The outcome was a broad consensus that d orbitals play a role, but are not as significant as Pauling had believed. A widely accepted description involves pπ - dπ bonding, initially proposed by D.W.J Cruickshank, where fully occupied p orbitals on oxygen overlap with empty sulfur d orbitals (principally the dz2 and dx2-y2). In this description, while there is some π character to the S-O bonds, the bond has significant ionic character. This explanation is quoted in some current textbooks. The Pauling bonding representation for sulfate and other main group compounds with oxygen is a common way of representing the bonding in many textbooks. Green vitriol is ferrous sulfate heptahydrate, FeSO4·7H2O; blue vitriol is copper sulfate pentahydrate, CuSO4·5H2O and white vitriol is zinc sulfate heptahydrate, ZnSO4·7H2O. Alum, a double sulfate with the formula K2Al2(SO4)4·24H2O, figured in the development of the chemical industry.

Environmental effects

Sulfates occur as microscopic particles (aerosols) resulting from fossil fuel and biomass combustion. They increase the acidity of the atmosphere and form acid rain.

Main effects on climate

The main direct effect of sulfates on the climate involves the scattering of light, effectively increasing the Earth's albedo. This effect is moderately well understood and leads to a cooling from the negative radiative forcing of about 0.5 W/m2 relative to pre-industrial values, partially offsetting the larger (about 2.4 W/m2) warming effect of greenhouse gases. The effect is strongly spatially non-uniform, being largest downstream of large industrial areas.
The first indirect effect is also known as the Twomey effect. Sulfate aerosols can act as cloud condensation nuclei and this leads to greater numbers of smaller droplets of water. Lots of smaller droplets can diffuse light more efficiently than just a few larger droplets.
The second indirect effect is the further knock-on effects of having more cloud condensation nuclei. It is proposed that these include the suppression of drizzle, increased cloud height, to facilitate cloud formation at low humidities and longer cloud lifetime. Sulfate may also result in changes in the particle size distribution, which can affect the clouds radiative properties in ways that are not fully understood. Chemical effects such as the dissolution of soluble gases and slightly soluble substances, surface tension depression by organic substances and accommodation coefficient changes are also included in the second indirect effect.
The indirect effects probably have a cooling effect, perhaps up to 2 W/m2, although the uncertainty is very large. Sulfates are therefore implicated in global dimming, which may have acted to offset some of the effects of global warming.

Other sulfur oxoanions

See also


bisulfate in Bosnian: Sulfat
bisulfate in Catalan: Sulfat
bisulfate in Czech: Sírany
bisulfate in Danish: Sulfat
bisulfate in German: Sulfate
bisulfate in Estonian: Sulfaadid
bisulfate in Spanish: Sulfato
bisulfate in French: Sulfate
bisulfate in Galician: Sulfato
bisulfate in Italian: Solfato
bisulfate in Hebrew: סולפט
bisulfate in Latvian: Sulfāti
bisulfate in Lithuanian: Sulfatai
bisulfate in Hungarian: Szulfát
bisulfate in Malay (macrolanguage): Sulfat
bisulfate in Dutch: Sulfaat
bisulfate in Japanese: 硫酸塩
bisulfate in Norwegian: Sulfat
bisulfate in Norwegian Nynorsk: Sulfat
bisulfate in Polish: Siarczany
bisulfate in Portuguese: Sulfato
bisulfate in Slovak: Síran
bisulfate in Serbian: Сулфат
bisulfate in Finnish: Sulfaatti
bisulfate in Swedish: Sulfat
bisulfate in Ukrainian: Сульфати
bisulfate in Chinese: 硫酸鹽
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