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pH Probe FAQS
1. What's the lifetime of a pH probe?
The expected lifetime of a correctly used and maintained pH probe is around one to three years. Some factors such as high temperature and measuring at extreme pH values contribute to a reduction of the lifetime even for probes that have been well maintained and properly stored. When a meter starts performing poorly, it may be possible to regenerate the pH-sensitive glass membrane and restore the electrode to its previous level of performance.
2. How do you select the correct pH probe?
For optimal pH measurement it is crucial to choose the right pH probe for each application. The most important sample criteria are: chemical composition, homogeneity, temperature, process pressure, pH range and container size (length and width restrictions). The choice of sensor becomes of particular importance for non-aqueous, low conductivity, protein-rich and viscous samples where general purpose glass electrodes are subject to various sources of error. The response time and accuracy of an electrode is dependent on a number of factors. Measurements at extreme pH values and temperatures, or low conductivity may take longer than those of aqueous solutions at room temperature with a neutral pH value.
3. How should you maintain/clean a probe?
Regular maintenance is very important for prolonging the lifetime of any pH probe. Probes with liquid electrolyte need the electrolyte to be topped-up when the level threatens to become lower than the level of the sample solution. This maintenance prevents a reflux of the sample into the probe. The complete reference electrolyte should also be regularly changed, approximately once a month. This ensures that the electrolyte is fresh and that no crystallization occurs due to evaporation from the open filling port during measurement. It is important not to get any bubbles on the inside of the probe, especially near the junction. If this happens the measurements will be unstable. To get rid of any bubbles, gently shake the probe in a vertical motion as with a fever thermometer.
To clean the probe, rinse it with deionized water after each measurement but never wipe it with a tissue. The surface of the paper tissue can scratch and damage the pH-sensitive glass membrane, removing the gel-layer and creating an electrostatic charge on the electrode. This electrostatic charge causes the measured signal to become very unstable. Special cleaning procedures may be necessary after contamination with certain samples.
pH Probe Selection and Handling
For optimal pH measurements, the correct probe must first be selected. The most important sample criteria to be considered are:
The choice becomes particularly significant for non-aqueous, low conductivity, protein-rich and viscous samples where general purpose glass probes are subject to various sources of error.
The response time and accuracy of a pH probe is dependent on a number of factors. Measurements at extreme pH values and temperatures, or in low conductivity samples may take longer than those of aqueous solutions at room temperature with a neutral pH and high conductivity. The significance of the different types of samples is explained below by taking the different probe characteristics as a starting point.
Different kinds of junction
The opening that the reference part of a pH probe uses to maintain contact with the sample can have several different forms. These forms have evolved through time because of the different demands put on the probes when measuring diverse samples. The “standard” junction is the simplest one and is made from a ceramic material. It consists of a porous piece of ceramic which is pushed through the glass shaft of the probe. This porous nature allows the electrolyte to slowly flow out of the probe, but stops it from streaming out freely.
This kind of junction is very suitable for standard measurements in aqueous solutions. The METTLER TOLEDO InPro 325x series is an example of a pH probe with a ceramic junction. Even though this is probably the most widely used junction because of its simplicity of use with aqueous solutions, it has one main drawback: Because of the porous structure of the junction it is relatively easy for particles in a sample to block the junction, especially if the sample is viscous or if it is a suspension.
You also have to be careful with some aqueous samples such as those with a high protein concentration, as proteins may precipitate within the ceramic junction if they come in contact with the reference electrolyte, which is often KCl. This reaction will cause the porous structure to become filled with protein debris, blocking the junction and rendering the pH probe useless. Measurements are not possible if the electrolyte cannot flow freely since the reference potential will no longer be stable.
The same problem can also be caused if the inner electrolyte reacts with the sample solution being measured and the two meet in the junction. This reaction can create a precipitate which may block the junction, for example if KCl electrolyte saturated with AgCl is used with samples containing sulfides, the silver and sulfides react to form Ag2S which then blocks the ceramic junction. Factory-filled, prepressurized liquid / gel electrolyte pH probes are suited to a wide scope of applications in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and chemical process industries. This design ensures the best possible measurement performance under the most diverse operating conditions.
PTFE annular diaphragm
An annular PTFE diaphragm, instead of a ceramic junction, increases the surface exposed to the media to prevent clogging of the diaphragm. Highly contaminated process conditions makes pH measurement and control a complicated issue. An annular PTFE reference diaphragm (e.g. as in METTLER TOLEDO‘s InPro 480x series) is designed for service in tough environments. It resists fouling from hydrocarbon contaminants and sulfides, ensuring high accuracy and fast response throughout its long life. For process media containing particles and aggressive chemicals, the optional flat glass membrane pH probe is the optimal solution.
The third type of junction is the open junction. This means the reference electrolyte is completely open to the environment and is in direct contact with the sample solution. This is only possible with a solid polymer reference electrolyte.
The great advantage of this junction type is clearly the fact that it is unlikely to clog. Open junctions can easily cope with very dirty samples and constantly provide good measurements. However, the solid polymer reference electrolyte which is used for this open junction has a slower reaction time and low electrolyte flow. This necessitates that the samples measured have a high enough ion concentration for stable measurements to be possible. Nevertheless, these probes are suitable for most samples and are very robust.
Dual-membrane without junction
The cell membrane chlor-alkali process is very tough on conventional pH probes. It exposes them to high temperatures, and clogging and poisoning from a variety of compounds. This is particularly true in the anode side of the process' electrolysis cell. Chlorine diffuses through the probe’s diaphragm and attacks the reference system. This results in incorrect pH measurement and shorter sensor lifetime.
Reliable pH measurement can be achieved with sensors such as the InPro 4850 i from METTLER TOLEDO. This is a dual-membrane pH probe that has been designed specifically to provide long-term accurate measurement in chlor-alkali applications. The main difference in measuring technology between dual-membrane pH probes and conventional pH probes is the presence of a sodium-reference (pNa) system. Such probes feature a sodium-sensitive glass membrane which is charged by the sodium ions in the process medium. The sodium concentration in the brine is used as the reference. The pNa reference system is hermetically sealed: there is no diaphragm; therefore, no oxidants can enter the probe to attack the reference system. These probes also feature a high-alkali-resistant pH membrane glass for pH measurement. It is the amalgamation of pH measurement and pNa reference that is the reason that this kind of probe is highly suited to chlor-alkali processes.
In applications where precise measurements are important, refillable pH and ORP probes deliver high accuracy and long lifetimes.
Sterilizable, hygienically designed pH and redox (ORP) sensors offering high measurement accuracy in pharmaceutical, biotech and food applications.
Specialized, highly durable pH and redox (ORP) probes designed to perform reliably under harsh conditions in chemical applications.
pH probes for pure and ultrapure water applications measure reliably in low-conductivity waters.
Refillable electrolyte for longer sensor lifetime
Ability to select application specific electrolyte
Silver-ion trap prevents sulfide poisoning
ISM diagnostics indicate maintenance timelines
Available in pH and ORP/Redox models
Designed for regular SIP and CIP processes
For use in bioreactors with high pressures
Diagnostics help prevent batch interruptions
Unique models for upside-down installation
Liquid, gel and polymer reference electrolytes
For use in difficult industrial environments
Withstands abrasive, sticky or oxidizing media
Diagnostics help manage sensor cleaning efforts
Titanium models prevent sensors from breaking
Liquid, gel and polymer reference electrolytes
In industries such as food where product safety is paramount, non-glass, ISFET, hygienic design probe provides exceptional reliability.
The innovative design of the pH meter allows its optimum use in a whole variety of applications. Suitable for laboratory and industrial-scale use.
ISM accessories such as software, data logger or transmission solution allow you to take full advantage of ISM technology.
Get an overview of how METTLER TOLEDO makes thousands of InPro pH sensors per year in our factory in Urdorf, Switzerland. See how competence, precision and quality are critical to hand-crafting each of our glass pH electrodes.