The Kjeldahl method or Kjeldahl digestion (Danish pronunciation: [ˈkʰɛld̥æːˀl]) in analytical chemistry is a method for the quantitative determination of organic nitrogen in chemical substances like ammonia
The method consists of heating a substance with sulphuric acid, which decomposes the organic substance by oxidation to liberate the reduced nitrogen as ammonium sulphate. In this step potassium sulphate is added to increase the boiling point of the medium (from 337 °C to 373 °C) . Chemical decomposition of the sample is complete when the initially very dark-coloured medium has become clear and colourless.
The solution is then distilled with a small quantity of sodium hydroxide, which converts the ammonium salt to ammonia. The amount of ammonia present, and thus the amount of nitrogen present in the sample, is determined by back titration. The end of the condenser is dipped into a solution of boric acid. The ammonia reacts with the acid and the remainder of the acid is then titrated with a sodium carbonate solution by way of a methyl orange pH indicator.
- Degradation: Sample + H2SO4 → (NH4)2SO4(aq) + CO2(g) + SO2(g) + H2O(g)
- Liberation of ammonia: (NH4)2SO4(aq) + 2NaOH → Na2SO4(aq) + 2H2O(l) + 2NH3(g)
- Capture of ammonia: B(OH)3 + H2O + NH3 → NH4+ + B(OH)4−
- Back-titration: B(OH)3 + H2O + Na2CO3 → NaHCO3(aq) + NaB(OH)4(aq) + CO2(g) + H2O