Phenolphthalein is a chemical compound that is commonly used as an acid-base indicator. It is colorless in its neutral form, but turns pink or fuchsia in the presence of an alkaline solution. This property makes it useful for a variety of applications, including titrations, pH testing, and even crime scene investigation.
So, why does phenolphthalein turn pink in the presence of an alkaline solution? The answer lies in the chemical structure of the compound and how it interacts with different types of solutions.
Phenolphthalein is composed of a central phenol ring, with two long hydrocarbon chains attached to it. In its neutral form, the compound exists in a zwitterion state, meaning it has both positive and negative charges on its atoms. The positive and negative charges cancel each other out, resulting in a neutral overall charge.
When phenolphthalein is placed in an alkaline solution, the excess hydroxide ions (OH-) in the solution interact with the compound. The hydroxide ions remove the hydrogen ions (H+) from the phenolphthalein, resulting in the formation of a pink or fuchsia colored compound. This reaction is reversible, meaning that phenolphthalein will turn back to its colorless form if it is placed in an acidic solution.
The exact mechanism behind the color change of phenolphthalein is not fully understood, but it is thought to involve the absorption of light in the visible spectrum by the pink or fuchsia colored compound. The compound absorbs light in the blue and green wavelengths, resulting in the pink or fuchsia color that is observed.
In conclusion, phenolphthalein turns pink in the presence of an alkaline solution due to a chemical reaction that occurs between the compound and excess hydroxide ions in the solution. This reaction results in the formation of a pink or fuchsia colored compound, which absorbs light in the blue and green wavelengths, resulting in the observed color change.