The unit symbol "N" is used to denote "Eq/L" (Equivalent per liter) which is normality. Although losing favor, medical reporting of serum concentrations in "mEq/L" (=0.001 N) still occurs.
There are three common areas where normality is used as a measure of reactive species in solution:
- In acid-base chemistry, normality is used to express the concentration of hydronium ions (H+) or hydroxide ions (OH−) in a solution. Here, is an integer value. Each solute can produce one or more equivalents of reactive species when dissolved.
- In redox reactions, the equivalence factor describes the number of electrons that an oxidizing or reducing agent can accept or donate. Here, can have a fractional (non-integer) value.
- In precipitation reactions, the equivalence factor measures the number of ions which will precipitate in a given reaction. Here, is an integer value.
Normal concentration of an ionic solution is intrinsically connected to the conductivity (electrolytic) through the equivalent conductivity.
- (H2SO4) = 0.5
If the concentration of a sulphuric acid solution is c(H2SO4) = 1 mol/L, then its normality is 2 N. It can also be called a "2 normal" solution.
Similarly, for a solution with c(H3PO4) = 1 mol/L, the normality is 3 N because phosphoric acid contains 3 acidic H atoms.
Normality is an ambiguous measure of the concentration of a solution. It needs a definition of the equivalence factor, which depends on the definition of equivalents. The same solution can possess different normalities for different reactions. The definition of the equivalence factor varies depending on the type of chemical reaction that is discussed: It may refer to equations, bases, redox species, precipitating ions, or isotopes. For example, a solution of MgCl2 that is 2 N with respect to a Cl− ion, is only 1 N with respect to an Mg2+ ion. Since may not be unequivocal, IUPAC and NIST discourage the use of normality.