Summarizing Buffers

Key Concepts and Summary

A solution containing a mixture of a weak acid and its conjugate base, or of a weak base and its conjugate acid, is called a buffer solution. The presence of a weak conjugate acid-base pair provides reactants that may neutralize small additions of strong acid or base, yielding weaker conjugate partners. The hydronium ion concentration of a buffer solution therefore does not change significantly when a small amount of acid or base is added.

Key Equations

  • pKa = −log Ka
  • pKb = −log Kb
  • \(\text{pH}=\text{p}{K}_{\text{a}}+\text{log}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\cfrac{\left[{\text{A}}^{\text{−}}\right]}{\left[\text{HA}\right]}\)


buffer capacity

amount of an acid or base that can be added to a volume of a buffer solution before its pH changes significantly (usually by one pH unit)


mixture of a weak acid or a weak base and the salt of its conjugate; the pH of a buffer resists change when small amounts of acid or base are added

Henderson-Hasselbalch equation

equation used to calculate the pH of buffer solutions

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