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pH and Living Systems

Introduction:
Scientists use something called the pH scale to measure how acidic or basic a liquid
is. The scale goes from 0 to 14. Distilled water is neutral and has a pH of 7. Acids
are found between 0 and 7. Bases are from 7 to 14. Most of the liquids you find
every day have a pH near 7. They are either a little below or a little above that
mark. When you start looking at the pH of chemicals, the numbers go to the
extremes. Substances with the highest pH (strong bases) and the lowest pH (strong
acids) are very dangerous chemicals. Molecules that make up or are produced by
living organisms usually only function within a narrow pH range (near neutral) and a
narrow temperature range (body temperature). Many biological solutions, such as
blood, have a pH near neutral.

The biological molecule used in this lab is a protein found in milk. Proteins are used
to build cells and do most of the cell's work. They also act as enzymes. For proteins
to work, they must maintain their globular shape. Changing the shape of a protein
denatures and the protein will no longer work.

Materials:
Small squares of wide-range pH paper, pH color chart, paper towels, 4 dropper
bottles, ammonia, lemon juice, skim milk, distilled water, forceps, 50 ml beakers,
small squares of narrow-range pH paper, 2 stirring rods
Procedure (Part A): Testing the pH of substances
1. Obtain 4, 50 ml beakers and label beakers A, B, C, or D
2. Add 10 ml of the following solution into the appropriate beakers
a. Distilled Water
b. Skim Milk
c. Lemon Juice
d. Ammonia
3. Dip the pH paper into the solution using forceps (do not touch the sides of the
beaker or any other surfaces)
4. Compare pH paper color that the color chart and record results
5. Repeat this procedure for each solution
Questions: (Part A)
1. Which substance was the most acidic?
2. Which substance was the most basic?
3. Did any of the substance have a pH close to neutral? If so, what were
they?

Procedure (Part B): Showing the effect of pH on a biological molecules (Milk


proteins)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

Place 100 drops of skim milk in a 50 ml Beaker (a new beaker)


Dip pH paper into the skim milk using forceps
Compare the color to the pH color chart and record data on table 2
Add a drop of lemon juice to the milk and stir with a stirring rod
a. Keep track of how many drops you add to the milk
Measure and record the pH of the solution with the pH paper
Repeat step 6/7 until you notice an obvious change in the appearance of the
milk
Repeat steps 1-6 using a clean 50 ml beaker and fresh milk, and substitute
ammonia for the lemon juice
Add drops of ammonia to the milk until the change in pH of the milk is equal
to the change in pH you measured in step 6
a. Keep track of how many drops you add to the milk

Data:
Table I
Solution

pH

Acid

Base

Neutral

Table II
Substanc
e tested

Substanc
e used to
produce
change

100 drops
Skim Milk
100 drops
Skim Milk

Lemon
Juice
Ammonia

Starting
pH of
milk

Final pH
of Milk

Original
Appearan
ce of Milk

Final
appearan
ce of milk

Total
number
of drops
added to
produce
change

Questions
1. Which substance tested from table 1 was the most acidic?

2. Which substance was most basic?

3. Did any substance from table 1 have a neutral, or near neutral pH? If so, which
substance was neutral?

5. Describe the change in appearance of the milk as more lemon juice was added.
Explain why this change occurred.

6. How much did the pH of milk change when lemon juice was added?

7. Why do you think lemon juice "curdled" (precipitated out the proteins) from the
milk?

8. Did you get the same change when ammonia was used? Why or why not?

Please Turn Your data and questions


Data:

Table I
Solution

pH

Acid

Base

Neutral

Table II
Substanc
e tested

Substanc
e used to
produce
change

100 drops
Skim Milk
100 drops
Skim Milk

Lemon
Juice
Ammonia

Questions

Starting
pH of
milk

Final pH
of Milk

Original
Appearan
ce of Milk

Final
appearan
ce of milk

Total
number
of drops
added to
produce
change

1. Which substance tested from table 1 was the most acidic?

2. Which substance was most basic?

3. Did any substance from table 1 have a neutral, or near neutral pH? If so, which
substance was neutral?

4. Why did you use narrow-range pH paper to measure the milk's change in pH?

5. Describe the change in appearance of the milk as more lemon juice was added.
Explain why this change occurred.

6. How much did the pH of milk change when lemon juice was added?

7. Why do you think lemon juice "curdled" (precipitated out the proteins) from the
milk?

When milk becomes too acidic, like when we add lemon juice or when
it goes sour, the negative charge on the casein groupings becomes
neutralized. Now instead of pushing each other apart, the casein starts
to clump together. Eventually large enough clumps are formed that we
can actually see the separation, and then we have curdled milk.

8. Did you get the same change when ammonia was used? No, it got a reading of
10. Its a weak base.

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