As solid-contact potentiometric sensors based on novel materials have reached exceptional stabilities with drifts in the low μV/h range and long-term and calibration-free potentiometric measurements gain more and more attention, reference electrode designs that used to be satisfactory for most users do not satisfy the needs of new challenging applications. It is important that the interface between a reference electrode and the sample, often provided by a salt bridge, remains constant in ion composition over time. Excessive restriction of the flow of the bridge electrolyte, e.g., by using nanoporous frits or gelled reference electrolyte solutions, can result in contamination of the salt bridge with sample components and depletion of the reference electrolyte by diffusion into samples. This can be avoided by using salt bridges that flow freely into the sample. However, commonly used reference electrodes with free-flowing junctions often suffer either from experimental difficulties in assuring a minimum flow rate or from excessive flow rates that require frequent replenishing of the bridge electrolyte. To this end, we developed a reference electrode that contains a concentrated electrolyte contacting samples through a 10.2 μm capillary. By applying a minimal pressure of 10.0 kPa, a flow rate of 100 nL/h is achieved. This maintains a constant liquid junction potential at the interface with the sample and avoids contamination of the reference electrode, as evidenced by a potential stability of 6 ± 3 μV/h over 21 days. With such a minimal flow rate, there is no need to refill the reference electrode electrolyte for years.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (CHE-1710024). E.L.A. thankfully acknowledges the Lester C. and Joan M. Krogh Endowed Fellowship, an ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry and Eastman Summer Fellowship, and a Dissertation Fellowship from the Graduate School, University of Minnesota.
© 2021 American Chemical Society.
- charge screening
- liquid junction
- potential stability
- reference electrodes
- salt bridges
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
- Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.