Dissolved Oxygen Measurement
Dissolved oxygen is defined as the measure of waterquality indicating free oxygen dissolved in water. Thequantity of dissolved oxygen in water is typicallyexpressed in parts per million (ppm) or milligrams perliter (mg/l). Since oxygen is soluble in water, theamount of dissolved oxygen in water is in the state ofdynamic equilibrium. The solubility of the dissolvedoxygen is proportional to the temperature andpressure of the water.The most common application for dissolved oxygenmeasurement occurs in wastewater treatment.Biochemical breakdown of sewage is achieved bybacterial attack in the presence of oxygen. Thisprocess typically takes place in an aeration basin of awastewater treatment plant, and is accomplished byaerating or bubbling air (or pure oxygen) through thewastewater. Maintaining the proper concentration ofdissolved oxygen in the aeration basin is necessary tokeep microorganisms alive and allow break down oforganic waste. These microorganisms turn organicwastes into inorganic byproducts; specifically, carbondioxide, water and sludge. When the measureddissolved oxygen decreases below a desiredconcentration, the plant control system automaticallyadds air to the aeration basin to provide life-sustainingoxygen for the microorganisms, and to facilitatethorough mixing of the organic waste. Without enoughdissolved oxygen concentration, beneficialmicroorganisms will die while troublesome filamentousmicrobes proliferate, causing sludge settling problems.Conversely, aeration is the largest single operatingexpense, and oxygen levels greater than the requiredoptimum concentrations are wasteful and inefficient.
Typical Membrane Sensor Design
Dissolved oxygen sensors for continuous processmonitoring are usually a membrane-type design. Mostmembrane sensor designs use three basic elements:
Electrodes - The electrodes provide the necessaryreaction site for reduction of oxygen moleculesand generation of electrons.
Membrane - The gas permeable membrane isdesigned to keep the electrolyte around theelectrodes, while allowing only dissolved oxygento diffuse into the measurement cell.
Electrolyte - The electrolyte facilitates dissolvedoxygen migration and provides an electrical pathto complete the current loop. It also removes metaloxides (a by-product of the reaction) from theelectrodes so that their metal surfaces are clean toreact. Electrolyte must be periodically replenishedto insure that the electrodes remain clean.The operational theory of a membrane sensor is thatoxygen in the wastewater diffuses through themembrane into the electrolyte. The concentration ofgases always tends to equalize on both sides of themembrane. When the concentration is not equal, gasmolecules migrate to the membrane side that has alower concentration. When the membrane isfunctioning, dissolved oxygen concentration in theelectrolyte in the measurement cell approximatelyequals the dissolved oxygen concentration of thewastewater contacting the opposite side of themembrane. The diffusion process is extremely critical.The dissolved oxygen must be allowed to migratefreely through the membrane for the sensor to functionproperly.
Dissolved Oxygen Cell Chemistry
Most continuous measurement dissolved oxygensensors in today’s marketplace use galvanic(spontaneous voltage) or electrolytic (applied voltage)measuring cells. In either case, the system measuresan electric current between two electrodes, which isproportional to the dissolved oxygen in the process.
Conventional Galvanic Measuring CellA conventional galvanic cell is illustrated in
. The oxygen content of the electrolyte isbrought into equilibrium with that of the sample.The galvanic cell operates like a battery, twoelectrodes made of dissimilar metals are immersedin a filling solution. This causes an electrochemicalreaction to take place when oxygen comes intocontact with the electrodes. In this reaction, thecathode reduces the oxygen into hydroxide, thusreleasing four electrons for each molecule ofoxygen. These electrons cause a current to flowthrough the electrolyte, the magnitude of which isproportional to the oxygen concentration in theelectrolyte. The most common electrode materialsare gold, silver, copper or lead, and the most
BI International 1 Technical Bulletin: Dissolved Oxygen Measurement