Phosphate Buffer Calculation

A Javascript that calculates the amount of monosodium

phosphate and disodium phosphate necessary to

achieve a buffer at a given pH and strength.

pH     Buffer Strength mM

Monosodium phosphate, monohydrate grams/liter

Disodium phosphate, heptahydrate grams/liter

How to use
Type the desired pH into the first cell, and type the intended buffer strength (in millimoles per liter) in the second cell. Press the calculate button, and the approximate percentages of monosodium phosphate, monohydrate and disodium phosphate, heptahydrate will be displayed. For example, a pH of about 7.4 with a buffer strength of 50 mM is obtained using 0.1558% monosodium phosphate monohydrate and 1.0374% disodium phosphate, heptahydrate.

How the calculation works
Using the three pK's of phosphoric acid and the pH, the ratio's of each of the phosphoric pairs is calculated. For example, the first ionization is given by:

H3PO4 --> H+ + H2PO4-

K1 = [H+][H2PO4-] / [H3PO4], or

[H2PO4-] / [H3PO4] = K1 / [H+]

Normalizing the amount of each of the four moieties, their relative amounts are calculated. The molar amounts of monosodium phosphate and disodium phosphate are derived from the following two equations.

Monosodium Phosphate = [H3PO4] + [H2PO4-]

Disodium Phosphate = [PO43-] + [HPO42-]

Using the molecular weights for monosodium phosphate, monohydrate and disodium phosphate, heptahydrate (the typical lab forms) together with the buffer strength, the actual percentages are calculated.

The pK's used for phosphoric acid are 2.148, 6.865 and 12.319. It's best to buffer at a pH close to one of the pK's, so use phosphate buffers only in the pH range 6-13.

What buffer strength to use? Too low will give a weak, drifting buffer, while too much may negatively affect other desired properties, such as taste. A 10 mM buffer is in general a good starting point.

Version 1.1, Jan 19, 2000. Scott Calabrese Barton

Version No. 1, December 31, 2000. Please send comments to Jeffrey Clymer

Index of other pages by Jeffrey Clymer