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Acids and Dissociation

An acid is a molecule or polyatomic ion that contains hydrogen and reacts with water to produce hydronium ions, H3O+.
This animation starts with the instant before any reaction with water takes place. Note, that the overall result is the transfer of a proton, H+(aq), to a water molecule. This is the Bronsted-Lowry definition of acids and bases: an acid is a proton donor and a base is a proton acceptor. In this case water acts as the base.