Many students, as well as adults, may be wondering what buffers do in biology. Buffers are actually the combination of weak acids and their salts of strong bases. Buffers can also be a mixture of weak bases and their salts of strong acids. Buffers assist in maintaining a normal pH level in biological systems. This means that when an acid or even an alkali is added to a substance, it will change the pH of the solution if there are no buffers present. In other words, buffers are chemicals that are used to help a liquid resist a change in its aesthetic properties when chemicals are added that otherwise would change the composition of the pH level. Keep in mind that buffers are imperative for living cells because they maintain the correct pH of a liquid.
You may be wondering what is pH? Well, it is basically a measure of how acidic a liquid is. For example, if you test the pH level of lemon juice, it will have a very low pH level of about two or three since it is extremely acidic. This process is very similar to the chemical makeup in your stomach since the acid is used to break down the food that you eat. Since acidic levels are able to destroy proteins in cells that are made up of an abundance of proteins, all cells need to have buffers both inside and outside of them to protect the protein in them. The pH level inside a cell is about seven, which is considered to be extremely neutral, just like water is.
What Do Buffers Do in Biology?
If a chemical is an acid and the opposite would be a chemical that is a base, then both can exist in any type of liquid. An acid releases a hydrogen ion into whatever liquid you are working with, while a base takes the hydrogen ion out of the liquid. The more the hydrogen ions, which are free-floating, are in a liquid, the more acidic that particular liquid will become. This means that acids make a liquid more acidic while bases make a liquid more basic, or less acidic. Buffers are chemicals that are able to very easily release or eliminate hydrogen ions in a liquid. The pH scale is used to measure how many hydrogen ions are in each liquid. The pH scale goes from zero to 14, which means a pH from zero to seven is considered to be acidic, but if the pH level is seven to 14, it is considered to be basic. A pH level that is seven, which is right in the middle, is considered to be neutral like pure water. Different buffers can maintain different pH levels, but the ones that are found inside a cell, as we said in the paragraph above, have a pH level of around 7.2.
pH Affects Protein Shape
The pH level can affect the shape of the proteins in a cell, which is troublesome since the proteins only work correctly when they have their normal three-dimensional type of shape. This means that the inside of a cell gets too acidic or too basic and the proteins can begin to lose their shape and will no longer work correctly. The buffers inside a cell will prevent this from happening.
Buffers in Science Experiments
Buffers can be used in scientific experiments so that students can see this whole process taking place in real-time. To be able to conduct proper scientific experiments, it is important that you buy buffers and other items for science experiments from a trusted and reliable source. Modern Biology, Inc., has been producing top-notch products for science experiments since 1986. Call them today or visit the website.