Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New Buffer Resists pH Change, Even As Temperature Drops

Researchers at the University of Illinois have found a simple solution to a problem that has plagued scientists for decades: the tendency of chemical buffers used to maintain the pH of laboratory samples to lose their efficacy as the samples are cooled.

The research team, headed by chemistry professor Yi Lu, developed a method to formulate a buffer that maintains a desired pH at a range of low temperatures. The study appears this month in Chemical Communications.

Scientists have known since the 1930s that the pH of chemical buffers that are used to maintain the pH of lab samples can change as those samples are cooled, with some buffers raising and others lowering pH in the cooling process.

Freezing is a standard method for extending the shelf life of biological specimens and pharmaceuticals, and biological samples are routinely cooled to slow chemical reactions in some experiments. Even tiny changes in the acidity or alkalinity of a sample can influence its properties, Lu said.

... more about:
»Sieracki »sample

“We like to freeze proteins, nucleic acids, pharmaceutical drugs and other biomolecules to keep them a long time and to study them more readily under very low temperatures using different spectroscopic techniques and X-ray crystallography,” Lu said. “But when the pH changes at low temperature, the sample integrity can change.”

Graduate student Nathan Sieracki demonstrated this by repeatedly freezing and thawing oxacillin, a penicillin analog used to treat infections.

“After one freeze-thaw 50 percent of the drug was dead in several of the buffers investigated,” Sieracki said.

Sieracki was able to demonstrate that the loss of activity was due to changes in pH and not a result of the temperature changes.

To find a buffer that would maintain a stable pH at varying temperatures, Sieracki first evaluated the behavior of several commonly used buffers over a range of temperatures. He saw that some buffers became more alkaline at lower temperatures while others grew more acidic.

These observations led to an obvious methodology: “Why don’t we just mix them together?” Sieracki said.

Little by little, he varied the proportions of the combined buffers until he found a formula that exhibited minimal pH changes at a variety of temperatures. Instead of registering changes of 2 or more pH units while cooling, which was typical of some standard buffers, the new formula changed less than 0.2 pH units during cooling, he said.

“We’re canceling out 100-fold changes in proton concentration and bringing them down within an order of magnitude,” Sieracki said.

The creation of a temperature-independent pH (TIP) buffer could have broad implications for new – and previously published – research, Lu said.

“We’re not in the business of looking at the literature and correcting other mistakes,” he said. “But some of the conclusions from previous studies could be on shaky ground if a buffer was used that changed pH dramatically at low temperatures.”

The new buffer is immediately useful for biological research, and Sieracki said he is confident that a similar buffer could be made for use in many fields, such as biochemistry, biophysics, chemical biology and biomedical research.

Lu also is affiliated with the Beckman Institute.

Editor’s note: To reach Yi Lu, call 217-333-2619; e-mail:

Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Further information:

Further reports about: Sieracki sample

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Aquaculture: Clear Water Thanks to Cork
28.10.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH

nachricht Bioluminescent sensor causes brain cells to glow in the dark
28.10.2016 | Vanderbilt University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Steering a fusion plasma toward stability

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Bioluminescent sensor causes brain cells to glow in the dark

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Activation of 2 genes linked to development of atherosclerosis

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>