Types of Indicators with Uses and Examples in Chemistry

Indicators are complex molecules that are themselves weak acids (e.g. phenolphthalein) or weak bases (e.g. methyl orange).indicators have six major types. they are the organic compounds. They have different colours in acidic and alkaline solutions. Litmus is a common indicator. It is red in the acidic solutions and blue in the alkaline solutions. which are as follows:

  • thymol blue
  • mromthymol blue
  • methyl orange
  • phenolphthalein
  • litmus
  • bromcresol green

Each indicator has a specific colour in the acidic medium which changes at a specific pH to another colour in basic medium. For example, phenolphthalein is colourless in the strongly acidic solution and red in the strongly basic solution. It changes colour at a pH of about 9. These means phenolphthalein is colourless in a solution with the pH less than 9. If the pH is above 9, phenolphthalein is red.

Use of indicators

Indicators are commonly used to find out the end point of the acid-base titration.

IndicatorsColour in AcidColour in BaseColour When Neutral
Methyl OrangeRedYellowOrange
Universal IndicatorredpurpleGreen


Choice of Indicator

For strong acid and weak base, methyl orange is used. For a strong base and weak acid, phenolphthalein is commonly chosen.

Explanation of Indicators Behavior

Indicator dissociates in a solution and gives an ion which has a different colour from the un-dissociated molecule of the indicator.


Consider the example of the methyl orange, which is of red coloured in unionized form and yellow coloured in unionized form.

If we represent an indicator by the general formula ‘HIn’ then the dissociation of the indicator can be shown as follows:

HIn  ======   H+   + In

The behaviour of Indicator (Methyl Orange)

  1. In Acidic Medium

If an acid is added which increase the concentration of the H+ then equilibrium will move to the left and unionized ‘HIn’ will predominate and the solution will be red.

  1. In Basic Medium

If a base is added which reduces the which reduces the concentration  H+  then equilibrium will move to the right and ionized ‘In’ will predominate and the solution will be yellow.

Measuring pH of a Solution

  • Universal Indicator

Some indicators are used as the mixtures. The mixture indicators give different colours at the different pH values. Hence, it is used to measure the pH of a solution. Such a mixed indicator is called universal indicator or simply pH indicator.

The pH of a solution can be measured by dipping a piece of Universal Indicator paper in the solution. The pH is then found by comparing the colour obtained with a colour chart.

  • The pH Meter

The pH of a solution can be measured with a pH meter. It consists of a pH electrode connected to a meter. The electrode is dipped into the solution and the meter shows the pH either on a scale or digitally. It is much more reliable and accurate method of measuring pH than the Universal Indicator paper, through the latter often more convenient.

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