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pH Electrode Technical Education

What Is pH?
pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. The amount of hydrogen ions (H+) causes a liquid to be acidic (high
concentration of hydrogen ions) or alkaline (low concentration of hydrogen ions). The pH range is measured
from 0 to 14. Values below 0 or above 14 are possible but rare and cannot be measured with our electrodes.
The pH scale is derived from the dissociation constant of water in the following equation:
H2 O - > H+ + OH- = 1 x 10- 14 ( mol/ L) 2 = Kw
( Kw is the dissociation constant of water) .

H y droge n I on Con ce n t ra t ion in


M ole s/ Lit e r a t 2 5 ° C
pH H+ conc. OH - conc.
0 1.0 0.00000000000001

1 0.1 0.0000000000001

2 0.01 0.000000000001

3 0.001 0.00000000001

4 0.0001 0.0000000001

5 0.00001 0.000000001

6 0.000001 0.00000001

7 0.0000001 0.0000001

8 0.00000001 0.0000001

9 0.000000001 0.00001

10 0.0000000001 0.0001

11 0.00000000001 0.001

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pH Electrode Technical Education : Support - Technical Education :: Sensorex Page 2

12 0.000000000001 0.01

13 0.0000000000001 0.1

14 0.00000000000001 1.0

pH of Common Materials

Why is pH an Important Measurement?


It determines product quality in:
Sugar Refining
Pulp and Paper Mills
Latex Coagulation
Photo Developing
It enhances product efficiency of:
Flue gas scrubbing
Circuit Board Etching
Fermentation processes
It assures product safety
Chromate and cyanide destruct

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Potable and waste waters


Food, low pH to prevent botulism

How Can pH be Measured?


Colorimetric Methods

Reagent addition
pH paper

Electrochemical Methods (pH electrodes)


A pH Measuring System Consists of:

1. A pH electrode, an electrode whose output voltage changes as the pH (hydrogen ion concentration)
changes
2. A reference electrode is an electrode whose voltage output stays constant
3. A pH meter, a millivolt meter with a special high impedance input circuit and circuits to change the
electrode's millivolts into pH unit readouts.
4. Optionally, an automatic temperature compensator, a device which senses temperature so that
the meter can correct for the effects of temperature changes.

How Does A pH Electrode Work?

Special composition glass senses H+ and a millivoltage is generated (59.2 mV per pH unit at 25C.)
A filling solution picks up the signal from the special pH glass
A pure silver wire dipped in silver chloride passes the signal from the solution whose pH is being
measured to the electrode's cable or connector
Sodium Ion error for solutions > pH 12.3

How Does A Reference Electrode Work?

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A porous reference junction separates the filling solution in the electrode from the solution whose pH is
to be measured.
The filling solution's constant chloride ion concentration generates a millivoltage at a pure silver wire with
silver chloride on it.
The silver wire passes the signal from the solution being measured to the electrode's cable or connector.

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Single vs. Double Junction Reference

Chemicals that cause silver to precipitate at the reference junction will contaminate and plug single
junctions. These may be such compounds as sulfides, mercaptans, cyanides, Iodides, and proteins. Other

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compounds such as silver, lead, mercury, and other heavy metal compounds will react with the chloride in
the gel, causing a reduction in the reference output. Selection of the proper chemistry in the lower (double)
junction will prevent or at least minimize the negative effects of these reactive compounds.

How Does A Combination Electrode Work?


A combination electrode consists of a pH electrode and a reference electrode built into a single body or
housing. A combination electrode therefore works like the pH and reference electrodes combined!

How does a pH meter Work?


A pH meter takes the input from the pH glass (high impedance mV) and the input from the reference sensor
and compares these 2 values to get a resulting millivolt reading. The reading in mV is converted to pH by
the following guidleine:
Zero mV = pH 7
59.2mV per pH unit change
mV are + for pH <7 and mV are - for pH >7

Example of pH Circuit

Note that the pH and reference input go into an operational amplifier (op amp) due to the very high
resistance of the pH glass. The meter will also adjust zero and span offsets and can do automatic
temperature compensation for pH error (discussed below).

Temperature Compensation
When measuring pH using a pH electrode the temperature error from the electrode varies based on the
Nernst Equation as 0.03pH/10C/unit of pH away from pH7. As shown in the table below, the error due to

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temperature is a function of both temperature and the pH being measured. Note that there is no error at pH7
and 25 Deg C. Temperature compensation can be achieved manually or automatically. Manual temperature
compensation is usually achieved by entering the temperature of the fluid being measured into the
instruments menu and then the instrument will display a "Temperature Compensated" pH reading. This
means that the temperature is corrected to the value expected at 25 Deg C. Automatic temperature
compensation requires input from a temperature sensor and constantly sends a compensated pH signal to
the display. Automatic temperature compensation is useful for measuring pH in systems with wide variations
in temperature.

pH v s. Te m pe ra t u re Error Ch a rt
pH 2 pH 3 pH 4 pH 5 pH 6 pH 7 pH 8 pH 9 pH 10 pH 11 pH 12

5° .30 .24 .18 .12 .06 0 .06 .12 .18 .24 .30

15° .15 .12 .09 .06 .03 0 .03 .06 .09 .12 .15

25° 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

35° .15 .12 .09 .06 .03 0 .03 .06 .09 .12 .15

45° .30 .24 .18 .12 .06 0 .06 .12 .18 .24 .30

55° .45 .36 .27 .18 .09 0 .09 .18 .27 .36 .45

65° .60 .48 .36 .24 .12 0 .12 .24 .36 .48 .60

75° .75 .60 .45 .30 .15 0 .15 .30 .45 .60 .75

85° .90 .72 .54 .36 .18 0 .18 .36 .54 .72 .90
Note: Values in light blue are less than .1 error and may not require temperature compensation. Values in
gray are temperature and pH in which there is no error in pH from temperature.

How are pH Systems Calibrated?

The electrodes are placed in buffers. Buffers are solutions of know, stable pH value
The commonly used buffers have pH values of 4.01, 7.00 and 10.00
The pH values of buffers change with changes of temperature (and so does the pH of solutions being
measured)
First the the system's (electrode and meter together) Zero Point is adjusted
Zero point is usually determined with pH 7.00 buffer
Ideally, a buffer is used whose value is close to that of the material or solution being measured
A "calibrate "or "standardize" adjustment potentiometer knob or push button on the pH meter is used to
set the system (electrode and meter together) to read the buffer's pH value
Next, the system's span is checked and/or adjusted. The electrodes are rinsed and put into a second
buffer
The system should read close to the pH value of the second buffer.
Most meters have controls labeled "SPAN" or "SLOPE" which compensates for electrodes with spans that
are too short.
The frequency of calibration is at the discretion of the user.

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NOTE: 2 - point calibration is necessary to ensure electrode works properly since a broken
electrode can give acceptable pH7 output in calibration mode.

pH Applications

Wastewater neutralization
Electroplating
Chemical Manufacturing
Circuit board etching
Flue gas scrubbers
Boilers and cooling towers
Pulp and paper mfg.
Food and Beverage
Pharmaceuticals
inks, paints latex
Water treatment (sewage)
Aquariums, aquaculture
Fermentation (wine, beer, alcohol)

© Copyright 1996-2008 Sensorex Corporation

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