Advertisement

10 Facts on Buffers

By Philip McIntosh
Published: March 13, 2017 | Last updated: April 21, 2021
Presented by Cyco Flower
Key Takeaways

In the horticulture world, a buffer works wonders.

  • The term buffer is used in a lot of ways. In general usage, it suggests a cushion or barrier of some kind between two zones. Chemically, the meaning is analogous.
  • In chemistry, a buffer is a solution that resists a change in pH. So, it sort of “cushions” a solution against large or rapid variations in acidity or basicity.
  • A well buffered solution can take a reasonable addition of strong acid or base, and react in such a way as to take H+ or OH- ions out of solution, thus keeping the acid-base balance relatively stable.
  • Buffers themselves can either be acidic (pH < 7) or basic (pH > 7).
  • Buffers are made by combining a weak acid in solution with its conjugate (weak) base.
  • A generic acid, HA has a conjugate base of A-, where H is a proton to be released as H+ (that makes it an acid) and A- is a counter ion (which could be a lot of things).
  • An example: Phosphoric acid (H3PO4) is a weak acid where there are three possible H+ ions to be released (the H part) and the PO4-3 (that’s the A- part). If we combine it in solution with sodium phosphate (Na3PO4) we provide some sodium ions and more of the phosphate PO4-3 (that’s the conjugate base).
  • In the above example, only a little of the H3PO4 ionizes (because it is a weak acid) and much of the H3PO4 remains un-ionized in solution.
  • If a strong acid is added to this solution, it will preferentially react with the free PO4-3 (mostly from the Na3PO4) rather than water to make more of the weak acid H3PO4 instead of H3O+ so the pH doesn’t change much at all.
  • If a bit of strong base (OH-) is added to the solution, the weak acid (H3PO4) will release one of it’s protons to combine with the OH- to create water (H2O) and again the pH doesn’t change much at all.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Share This Article

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
Advertisement

Presented By

Logo for Cyco Flower

Written by Philip McIntosh | Science & Technology Writer, Teacher

Profile Picture of Philip McIntosh
Philip McIntosh is a science and technology writer with a bachelor’s degree in botany and chemistry and a master’s degree in biological science. During his graduate research, he used hydroponic techniques to grow axenic plants. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he teaches mathematics.

More from Cyco Flower

Go back to top
Maximum Yield Logo

You must be 19 years of age or older to enter this site.

Please confirm your date of birth:

This feature requires cookies to be enabled