I keep seeing the Nernst equation in two different forms, one using the natural log and the other using log base 10. Could someone explain why there are two different versions, and which should be used? Thank you in advance.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I see this issue calculating entropy, where the log base is chosen as a matter of convenience. With the Nernst equation, the equations of different base using either log base 10 or log base e are equal when a correction factor of ~2.3026 is applied to the log base 10 equation. $\endgroup$
    – Galen
    Nov 7, 2015 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ The factor of ~2.3026 comes from the ratio ln(n) / log10(n) = 2.3026... for any real positive value of n. $\endgroup$
    – Galen
    Nov 7, 2015 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ You will see change in constant in that case. As @Galen pointed out, you will get multiplication factor of 2.3026 in log 10 equation. And you can use any. Both are correct. $\endgroup$
    – Dexter
    Nov 8, 2015 at 7:30
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you! I completely forgot about change of base when using logarithms. $\endgroup$
    – Meep
    Nov 8, 2015 at 10:01

1 Answer 1


Since you tagged this with neuroscience, I'm going to assume the two forms you see are these:

enter image description here

The top one is what you might call the "no assumptions form". Temperature is left as a variable, T, and will have to be plugged in, and one will also have to plug in the gas constant (R), Faraday's constant (F), and the valence (z) of the ion (X) in question when you solve the equation.

The bottom one could be called the "handy assumptions form", or simpler form. Temperature has already been plugged into the equation as room temperature (for early experiments, they probably measured at that...this is what is used here) or body temperature, the values for the constants are plugged in, and the valence of "X" is assumed to be +1 (such as for Na+ or K+), so the math of doing all that results in this other form, with the number 58 in it.

The conversion from the natural logarithm ("ln") to the base 10 logarithm ("log") is part of that transformation. As commenters mentioned, the conversion factor is ~2.3026 between the two. So that number is factored in, but so are all the other values.


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