Difference Wiki

Carbonate vs. Bicarbonate: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 9, 2024
Carbonate is a salt of carbonic acid with the formula CO3^2-, while bicarbonate is a hydrogen carbonate with the formula HCO3^-.

Key Differences

Carbonate compounds contain the carbonate ion (CO3^2-), a base that forms salts and minerals. Bicarbonate is a derivative of carbonate, containing an additional hydrogen ion, making it HCO3^-.
Carbonates often form rocks and are a major component of limestone and marble. Bicarbonates, like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), are more soluble in water and have different applications, like in baking.
In chemistry, carbonate ions act as a ligand and can participate in acid-base reactions. Bicarbonate serves as a buffer in biological systems, helping maintain pH balance in blood and other fluids.
Carbonates react with acids to release carbon dioxide, a reaction used in fire extinguishers. Bicarbonates, when heated or mixed with acids, also release CO2, a principle used in cooking and baking.
The formation of carbonate minerals plays a crucial role in the carbon cycle. Bicarbonate ions in the ocean also contribute to the carbon cycle but are more involved in short-term processes.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Formula


Hydrogen Ion Presence

Lacks additional hydrogen ion
Contains an additional H+ ion


Less soluble in water
More soluble in water

Common Uses

In rocks, minerals, construction
In cooking, baking, as a buffer

Reaction with Acids

Produces CO2 and water
Also produces CO2 and water

Carbonate and Bicarbonate Definitions


Participates in acid-base reactions.
Carbonate ions react with acids to release carbon dioxide.


A hydrogen carbonate ion.
Bicarbonate of soda is another name for baking soda.


Contains the ion CO3^2-.
Carbonate minerals are common in sedimentary rocks.


Acts as a pH buffer.
Bicarbonate helps regulate blood pH in the human body.


A salt of carbonic acid.
Calcium carbonate is found in limestone and chalk.


Soluble in water.
Bicarbonate ions are found in natural waters.


Contributes to the carbon cycle.
Oceanic carbonate sediments are vital in Earth's carbon cycle.


Contains the formula HCO3^-.
Sodium bicarbonate is used in antacids.


Used in construction materials.
Carbonate rocks like marble are popular in architecture.


Releases CO2 when heated.
Baking powder contains bicarbonate for leavening.


To add carbon dioxide gas to (a beverage) so that bubbles are produced upon release from a container.


The polyatomic anion HCO3- or a compound, such as sodium bicarbonate, containing it.


To burn to carbon; carbonize.


(chemistry) the univalent anion HCO3-; any salt of carbonic acid in which only one of the hydrogen atoms has been replaced.


To change into a carbonate.


Sodium bicarbonate used as a mild antacid; bicarbonate of soda


The anionic divalent group CO3, derived from carbonic acid, or a compound containing this group.


A carbonate in which but half the hydrogen of the acid is replaced by a positive element or radical, thus making the proportion of the acid to the positive or basic portion twice what it is in the normal carbonates; an acid carbonate; - sometimes called supercarbonate.


Any salt or ester of carbonic acid. Category:en:Carbon


A salt of carbonic acid (containing the anion HCO3) in which one hydrogen atom has been replaced; an acid carbonate


(transitive) To charge (often a beverage) with carbon dioxide.


A salt or carbonic acid, as in limestone, some forms of lead ore, etc.


A salt or ester of carbonic acid (containing the anion CO3)


Treat with carbon dioxide;
Carbonated soft drinks


Turn into a carbonate


Where are carbonates found?

Carbonates are found in rocks like limestone and marble.

What is carbonate?

Carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CO3^2-.

How is bicarbonate formed?

Bicarbonate is formed by adding a hydrogen ion to carbonate.

Are carbonate compounds important geologically?

Yes, carbonates are significant in geological formations.

How does bicarbonate maintain pH balance?

Bicarbonate acts as a buffer, neutralizing acids and bases.

What's a common use of bicarbonate?

Bicarbonate is commonly used in baking and as a pH buffer.

Can carbonate buffer pH?

Yes, carbonate can act as a buffer in certain conditions.

Do carbonates react with acids?

Yes, carbonates react with acids to release CO2.

Is bicarbonate safe for consumption?

Yes, bicarbonate in forms like baking soda is safe for consumption.

Are all carbonates insoluble?

Most carbonates are insoluble in water, with few exceptions.

Do carbonates play a role in the carbon cycle?

Yes, carbonates are integral to the long-term carbon cycle.

Does carbonate have a role in construction?

Yes, carbonate minerals are used in construction materials.

Is bicarbonate found in the body?

Yes, bicarbonate is a crucial buffer in human blood.

Is bicarbonate more soluble than carbonate?

Yes, bicarbonate is more soluble in water than carbonate.

Can carbonates be used in fire extinguishers?

Yes, the reaction of carbonate with acid is used in fire extinguishers.

How does bicarbonate affect cooking?

Bicarbonate causes dough to rise by releasing CO2 when heated.

Can carbonate ions be a ligand?

Yes, carbonate ions can act as ligands in coordination compounds.

Is bicarbonate important in ocean chemistry?

Yes, bicarbonate plays a role in oceanic carbon buffering.

How does bicarbonate interact with acids?

Bicarbonate reacts with acids, producing CO2, water, and a salt.

What happens when bicarbonate is heated?

Heating bicarbonate releases carbon dioxide and water.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons