In chemistry, an amphoteric compound is a molecule or ion that can react both as an acid and as a base. Many metals (such as copper, zinc, tin, lead, aluminium, and beryllium) form amphoteric oxides or hydroxides. Amphoterism depends on the oxidation states of the oxide. Al2O3 is an example of an amphoteric oxide.
The prefix of the word 'amphoteric' is derived from a Greek prefix amphi-, which means both. In chemistry, an amphoteric substance is a substance that has the ability to act either as an acid or a base. Acids donate protons (or accept electron pairs) and bases accept protons; amphoteric substances can do either.
Metal oxides which react with both acids as well as bases to produce salts and water are known as amphoteric oxides. Amphoteric oxides include lead oxide and zinc oxide, among many others.
One type of amphoteric species are amphiprotic molecules, which can either donate or accept a proton (H+). Examples include amino acids and proteins, which have amine and carboxylic acid groups, and self-ionizable compounds such as water.
Ampholytes are amphoteric molecules that contain both acidic and basic groups and will exist mostly as zwitterions in a certain range of pH. The pH at which the average charge is zero is known as the molecule's isoelectric point.Ampholytes are used to establish a stable pH gradient for use in isoelectric focusing.
Amphoteric is derived from the Greek word amphoteroi (ἀμφότεροι) meaning "both". Related words in acid-base chemistry are amphichromatic and amphichroic, both describing substances such as acid-base indicators which give one colour on reaction with an acid and another colour on reaction with a base.