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**2 Amount and concentration: making and diluting solutions
**

2 Amount and concentration; making and diluting solutions .........................................................1

2A Rationale.............................................................................................................................1

2B Distinguishing between amount and concentration, g and %w/v..........................................1

2C Distinguishing between amount and concentration, moles and molar...................................2

2D Practice converting g/L to M and vice versa........................................................................3

2E Diluting Solutions ...............................................................................................................5

2F Practice calculating dilutions ...............................................................................................6

Summary of learning objectives................................................................................................7

2A Rationale

**Biological and biochemical investigations rely completely upon being able to detect
**

the concentration of a variety of substances. For example, in diabetics it is important

to know the concentration of glucose in the blood and you may also need to be able to

calculate how much insulin would need to be dissolved in a certain volume of saline so

as to give the right amount in a 1ml injection volume. It is also vitally important that

you perform these calculations quickly, reliably and accurately.

**This section aims to help you understand how to go about doing these calculations and
**

to give you plenty of practice so that you can do them quickly and reliably.

2B Distinguishing between amount and concentration, g and %w/v

**The amount of a substance is often measured by how much it weighs – i.e. in g or mg
**

or kg etc.

**The concentration is the amount divided by the volume it is dissolved in.
**

amount

concentration =

volume

For example you might dissolve

0.9g of sodium chloride in 100mL of water.

**Sometimes this is referred to as 0.9% w/v since it is 0.9g weight divided by 100mL
**

volume and “w/v” stands for weight per volume.”

The concentration of this solution could be described as

0.009 g/mL or 9 mg/mL.

**Alternatively you could notice that if 0.9g is dissolved in 100mL, then 9g would be
**

dissolved in 1000ml (=1L) and the concentration could also be written as

9g/L

Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Author Dr J A Koenig

Page 1 of 7

Essential Maths for Medics and Vets Reference Materials Module 2. Amount and Concentration.

**2C Distinguishing between amount and concentration, moles and
**

molar

**Another way of representing the amount of a substance is to use the concept of mole.
**

A mole is simply 6.0223 x 1023 molecules (this is “Avogadro’s number”)

Eggs come in dozens (12), molecules come in moles (6 x 1023)

**The mass of a mole of molecules is the formula weight in grams.
**

This is sometimes called “molar mass” with symbol M.

Sometimes it is referred to as molecular weight.

Sometimes it is called “relative molecular mass” since the mass of a carbon element is

designated to be 12 and other molecules or elements are given masses relative to that.

**The molar mass of a small molecule such as an amino acid (eg glycine is NH2CH2COOH
**

and has molecular mass = 75.07 g.mol-1) is much less than the molar mass of a protein

(eg haemoglobin has molecular mass ~ 64500 g.mol-1).

**6.0223 x 1023 glycine molecules (or 1 mole) would weigh 75.07 g whereas
**

6.0223 x 1023 haemoglobin molecules (or 1 mole) would weigh ~64500g (or 64.5kg)

**The important thing to remember for calculations is that the molecular
**

weight/molecular mass/molar mass – call it what you will – has the units of g.mol-1

To convert between an amount in g and an amount in moles,

Amount (in g) = Amount (in mol) x Molar Mass (g.mol-1)

**Sometimes the term “Dalton” is used for molecular mass.
**

For example the molecular mass of glycine is 75 Da while the molecular mass of

haemoglobin is 64.5kDa (or 64500 Da).

The concentration of a solution of 1 mole dissolved in 1 L is 1 M (“one molar”)

1 M = 1 mole

1 litre

Don’t confuse this symbol “M” for mol/l with “M” for molar mass. It’s unfortunate they

have been used for two quite different things.

In the case of glucose, a 1 M solution would have 1 mole = 180 g dissolved in 1 L.

So another way of saying that is 1 M glucose solution = 180 g/1000 ml = 0.18 g/ml

Alternatively you could call it 18 % (w/v).

**You need to be able to convert easily and accurately between different ways of
**

expressing concentration.

Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Author Dr J A Koenig

Page 2 of 7

Essential Maths for Medics and Vets Reference Materials Module 2. Amount and Concentration.

2D Practice converting g/L to M and vice versa

Example 1: Converting g/L to M

**You have weighed out 20 g KCl (formula weight of KCl is 74.55 g.mol-1) and dissolved it
**

in 500 mL, what is the concentration in M?

Work out how many moles are equivalent to 20 g.

Amount (in g) = Amount (in mol) x Molar Mass (g.mol-1)

Rearranging:

**Amount (in moles) = amount (in g)
**

molar mass (in g.mol-1)

20 g

= = 0.268 mol

74.55 g.mol −1

Now work out the concentration by dividing the amount (in mol) by the volume (in L)

**Concentration (M) = amount (in mol)
**

volume (in L)

0.268mol

= = 0.537 M

0.5L

Example 2.

Converting M to g/L

You have a 1 M solution of NaCl, what is the concentration in % (w/v)?

1 M = 1 mol / 1 L

1 mol of NaCl = 58.44 g.mol-1

**Concentration (M) = 1 mol = 58.44g = 5.844g = 5.8% (w/v)
**

1L 1L 100 mL

Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Author Dr J A Koenig

Page 3 of 7

Essential Maths for Medics and Vets Reference Materials Module 2. Amount and Concentration.

Example 3.

You are given 580 mg of adrenaline and need to make a 1 mM solution. What volume of

water do you need to dissolve it in? The molar mass of adrenaline is 183.2 g.mol-1

First you need to convert 580 mg to moles:

**Amount (in moles) = amount (in g)
**

molar mass (in g.mol-1)

0.58 g

= = 0.003166 mol

183.2 g .mol −1

Then work out the volume by rearranging the equation:

**Concentration (M) = amount (in mol)
**

volume (in L)

**becomes: Volume (in L) = amount (in mol)
**

concentration (in M)

**Volume (in L) = 0.003166 mol
**

0.001 mol.L-1

= 3.166 L

Example 4.

**You have a 1 mM solution of adrenaline and wish to dispense a volume which contains
**

10 mg. What volume do you need to dispense?

First convert 10mg to moles:

**Amount (in moles) = amount (in g)
**

molar mass (in g.mol-1)

0.01g

= −1

= 5.46 x 10-5 mol

183.2 g .mol

Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Author Dr J A Koenig

Page 4 of 7

Essential Maths for Medics and Vets Reference Materials Module 2. Amount and Concentration.

volume = amount

concentration

volume = 5.46 x 10-5 mol

1 x 10-3 mol.L-1

volume = 5.46 x 10-2 L = 0.0546 L = 54.6 mL

Example 5.

You want to make 10 mL of a 5 mM solution of adrenaline, how much should you weigh

out?

Amount = volume x concentration

= 0.01 L x 5 x 10-3 mol.L-1

= 5 x 10-5 mol

= 5 x 10-5 mol x 183.2 g.mol-1

= 916 x 10-5 g

= 9.16 mg

2E Diluting Solutions

Simple Dilutions

Make a 1:10 dilution (say this as “a one in ten dilution”).

**Take 1 part of your stock solution and add 9 parts of solvent (usually water but
**

sometimes alcohol or other organic solvent).

**If your original sodium chloride solution is 1M, and you dilute it 1:10, then you might
**

take 10ml of 1M NaCl and 90ml water, (10 + 90 = 100)

or you could take 1ml of 1M NaCl and 9ml water, (1 + 9 = 10)

or 0.2 ml 1M NaCl and 1.8ml water (0.2 + 1.8 = 2)

In all cases you are diluting by the same factor.

**The concentration of the resulting solution is 1M /10 = 0.1M where 10 is the dilution
**

factor.

**[Although it is really quite obvious, you can convince yourself that the resulting
**

concentration is 0.1M by the following:

Take 10 ml of 1M NaCl, how much NaCl is there in that?

Answer:

amount

concentration = amount = concentration × volume

volume

Amount in 10ml = 10ml x 1mol.L-1 x 0.001 L.mL-1 = 0.01mol

**So imagine that you are taking 10ml which has 0.01mol salt in it, and you put it
**

into a total volume of 100ml.

Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Author Dr J A Koenig

Page 5 of 7

Essential Maths for Medics and Vets Reference Materials Module 2. Amount and Concentration.

amount 0.01mol

concentration = = = 0.1M ]

volume 0.100L

For example, a

1:5 dilution = 1 unit volume of diluent + 4 unit volumes of solvent;

dilution factor = 5

**1:2 dilution = 1 unit volume of diluent + 1 unit volume of solvent;
**

dilution factor = 2

**1:7.4 dilution = 1 unit volume of diluent + 6.4 unit volumes of volume:
**

dilution factor = 7.4

Serial Dilutions

**Serial dilutions are a quick and convenient way to prepare a wide range of
**

concentrations. Typically, they are done in powers of 10 or 100 (but not always).

So for example:

**Take a 1mM stock solution of adrenaline, dilute it 1:10 (0.1ml + 0.9ml) to give…
**

a 0.1mM solution – dilute this 1:10 to give …

a 0.01mM solution – dilute this 1:10 to give …

a 0.001mM solution – dilute this 1:10 to give …

a 0.0001mM solution and so on…

**This approach allows you to prepare very dilute solutions from a concentrated stock
**

much more accurately than the alternative.

2F Practice calculating dilutions

**The most common task you will be asked to do is to prepare a particular concentration
**

from a stock solution. So say you are asked to prepare 0.32M sucrose from a 1M sucrose

stock.

There are two ways of approaching this and these are illustrated below. Think about

them both and then choose whichever makes the most sense for you.

Method 1:

Step 1: work out what the dilution factor is ..

1/0.32 = 3.125

Step 2: turn this into volume of diluent and solvent..

**1 part of 1M sucrose plus 2.125 parts water gives 3.125 parts of 0.32M sucrose
**

Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Author Dr J A Koenig

Page 6 of 7

Essential Maths for Medics and Vets Reference Materials Module 2. Amount and Concentration.

you could write this as 1ml x 1M sucrose + 2.125ml water 3.125ml x 0.32M sucrose

**or you could scale it up to whatever volume you want, say
**

32ml x 1M sucrose + 68ml water 100 ml x 0.32M sucrose

Method 2:

The alternative method is this:

Start by noticing that amount = concentration x volume or A = C.V

**Now if you take a volume V1 of your concentrated solution (concentration = C1)
**

Then the amount you have in your pipette is A1.

Now if you put that amount into a new volume V2, the amount is still constant, but

now because you have a bigger volume, the concentration C2 = A/V2.

But from before, A = C1.V1,

so C1.V1 = C2.V2

**What this is saying is that if the amount is the same in both solutions, then their
**

concentrations and volumes must be related.

**You can use this relationship to calculate the required volume V2 to get a particular
**

concentration. Taking our earlier example,

C1 = 1M, V1 = 1ml, C2 (the desired concentration) = 0.32M what is the resulting

volume?

1M x 1ml = 0.32M x V2.

1

V2 = ml

0.32

V2 = 3.125ml

**What about if you were asked to make 100ml of 0.32M sucrose?
**

Now you have C1=1M, C2 = 0.32M, V2 = 100ml and V1 is the unknown.

1M x V1 = 0.32M x 100ml

V1 = 32ml

Summary of learning objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:

**a. To understand the difference between amount and concentration
**

b. To be able to calculate the concentration of a solution in a variety of formats

including M, g/l, %v/v, %w/v

c. To be able to quickly and reliably convert from one unit to another

d. To be able to quickly and reliably calculate the appropriate way to prepare a

dilution

Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Author Dr J A Koenig

Page 7 of 7

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