Hydrobromic Acid

This acid, HBr, the only compound of hydrogen and bromine, is in many respects similar to hydrochloric acid, but is rather less stable. It may be prepared by passing hydrogen gas and bromine vapour through a tube containing a heated platinum spiral. It cannot be prepared with any degree of purity by the action of concentrated sulphuric acid on bromides, since secondary reactions take place, leading to the liberation of free bromine and formation of sulphur dioxide. The usual method employed for the preparation of the gas consists in dropping bromine on to a mixture of amorphous phosphorus and water, when a violent reaction takes place and the gas is rapidly liberated. It can be obtained also, although in a somewhat impure condition, by the direct action of bromine on various saturated hydrocarbons (e.g. paraffin-wax), while an aqueous solution may be obtained by passing sulphuretted hydrogen through bromine water. Alexander Scott (Journal of Chem. Soc., 1900, 77, p. 648) prepares pure hydrobromic acid by covering bromine, which is contained in a large flask, with a layer of water, and passing sulphur dioxide into the water above the surface of the bromine, until the whole is of a pale yellow colour; the resulting solution is then distilled in a slow current of air and finally purified by distillation over barium bromide.

At ordinary temperatures hydrobromic acid is a colourless gas which fumes strongly in moist air, and has an acid taste and reaction. It can be condensed to a liquid, which boils at -64.9° C. (under a pressure of 738.2 mm.), and, by still further cooling, gives colourless crystals which melt at -88.5° C. It is readily soluble in water, forming the aqueous acid, which when saturated at 0° C. has a specific gravity of 1.78. When boiled, the aqueous acid loses either acid or water until a solution of constant boiling point is obtained, containing 48% of the acid and boiling at 126° C. under atmospheric pressure; should the pressure, however, vary, the strength of the solution boiling at a constant temperature varies also. Hydrobromic acid is one of the "strong" acids, being ionized to a very large extent even in concentrated solution, as shown by the molecular conductivity increasing by only a small amount over a wide range of dilution.


Hydrobromic acid reacts with metallic oxides, hydroxides and carbonates to form bromides, which can in many cases be obtained also by the direct union of the metals with bromine. As a class, the metallic bromides are solids at ordinary temperatures, which fuse readily and volatilize on heating. The majority are soluble in water, the chief exceptions being silver bromide, mercurous bromide, palladious bromide and lead bromide; the last is, however, soluble in hot water. They are decomposed by chlorine, with liberation of bromine and formation of metallic chlorides; concentrated sulphuric acid also decomposes them, with formation of a metallic sulphate and liberation of bromine and sulphur dioxide. The non-metallic bromides are usually liquids, which are readily decomposed by water. Hydrobromic acid and its salts can be readily detected by the addition of chlorine water to their aqueous solutions, when bromine is liberated; or by warming with concentrated sulphuric acid and manganese dioxide, the same result being obtained. Silver nitrate in the presence of nitric acid gives with bromides a pale yellow precipitate of silver bromide, AgBr, which is sparingly soluble in ammonia.

For their quantitative determination they are precipitated in nitric acid solution by means of silver nitrate, and the silver bromide well washed, dried and weighed.

No oxides of bromine have as yet been isolated, but three oxy-acids are known, namely hypobromous acid, HBrO, bromous acid, HBrO, and bromic acid, HBrO. Hypobromous acid is obtained by shaking together bromine water and precipitated mercuric oxide, followed by distillation of the dilute solution in vacuo at low temperature (about 40° C.). It is a very unstable compound, breaking up, on heating, into bromine and oxygen. The aqueous solution is light yellow in colour, and possesses strong bleaching properties. Bromous acid is formed by adding bromine to a saturated solution of silver nitrate (A. H. Richards, J. Soc Chem. Ind., 1906, 25, p. 4). Bromic acid is obtained by the addition of the calculated amount of sulphuric acid (previously diluted with water) to the barium salt; by the action of bromine on the silver salt, in the presence of water, 5AgBrO + 3Br + 3HO = 5AgBr + 6HBrO, or by passing chlorine through a solution of bromine in water. The acid is only known in the form of its aqueous solution; this is, however, very unstable, decomposing on being heated to 100° C. into water, oxygen and bromine. By reducing agents such, for example, as sulphuretted hydrogen and sulphur-dioxide, it is rapidly converted into hydrobromic acid.

Hydrobromic acid decomposes it according to the equation HBrO + 5HBr = 3HO + 3Br. Its salts are known as bromates, and are as a general rule difficultly soluble in water, and decomposed by heat, with evolution of oxygen.