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Conductivity Probe

Conductivity Probe
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The Vernier Conductivity Probe can be used to measure either solutionconductivity or total ion
concentration of aqueous samples being investigated in the field or in the laboratory. It can be connected
to any of the Vernier interfaces (ULI, Serial Box Interface, MPLI, or Voltage Input Unit), as well as the
Texas Instruments CBL System. Conductivity is one of the easiest environmental tests of aquatic samples.
Even though it does not tell you specific ions that are present, it does quickly determine the total
concentration of ions in a sample. It can be used to perform a wide variety of tests or planned experiments
to determine the changes in or levels of total dissolved ions or salinity:

How the Conductivity Probe Works

The Conductivity Probe measures the ability of a solution to
conduct an electric current between two electrodes. In
solution, the current flows by ion transport. Therefore, an
increasing concentration of ions in the solution will result in
higher conductivity values.
The Conductivity Probe is actually measuring conductance,
defined as the reciprocal of resistance. When resistance is
measured in ohms, conductance is measured using the SI unit,
siemens (formerly known as a mho). Since the siemens is a
very large unit, aqueous samples are commonly measured in
microsiemens, or uS.
Even though the Conductivity Probe is measuring
conductance, we areoften interested in finding conductivity of
a solution. Conductivity, C,is found using the following
C + G * kc

where G is the conductance, and kc is the cell constant. The cell constant is determined for a probe
using the following formula:
kc = d / A
where d is the distance between the two electrodes, and A is the areaof the electrode surface.

For example, the cell in Figure 2 has a cell constant kC = d / A = 1.0 cm / 1.0
cm2 = 1.0 cm-1. The conductivity value is found by multiplyingconductance
and the cell constant. Since the Conductivity Probe also hasa cell constant of
1.0 cm-1, its conductivity and conductance have thesame numerical value.
For a solution with a conductance value of 1000 ,uS,the conductivity C,
would be:
C = G * kc = ( 1000 ,uS) x ( 1.0 cm-1) = 1000 uS/cm
A potential difference is applied to the two probe electrodes in theConductivity Probe. The

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Conductivity Probe

resulting current is proportional to the conductivityof the solution. This current is converted into a
voltage to be read bythe interface, or the CBL System.
Alternating current is supplied to prevent the complete ion migrationto the two electrodes. shown in
the figure below, with each cycle of thealternating current, the polarity of the electrodes is reversed,
whichin turn reverses the direction of ion flow. This very important featureof the Conductivity
Probe prevents most electrolysis and polarization fromoccurring the electrodes. Thus, the solutions
that are being measured forconductivity are not fouled. It also greatly reduces redox products
fromforming on the relatively inert graphite electrodes.

One of the most common uses of the Conductivity Probe is to find the
concentration of total dissolved solids, or TDS, in a sample of water. This
can be accomplished because there is generally a direct relationship
between conductivity and the concentration of ions in a solution, as shown
here. The relationship persists until very large ion concentrations are
The Vernier Conductivity Probe has three sensitivity range settings:
0 to 200, uS (0 to 100 mg/L TDS)
0 to 2000, uS (0 to 1000 mg/L TDS)
0 to 20,000, uS (0 to 10,000 mg/L TDS)
These ranges are selected using a toggle switch on the end of the amplification box attached to the
probe. It is very important to consider this setting when loading or performing a calibration; no
single calibration can be used for all three settings.

Connect the CBL unit to the TI-92 calculator using the I/O ports. Be sure to push both plugs in
Using a CBL DIN adapter, connect the Conductivity Probe to any of tha analog input ports on the
top or left side of the CBl unit (CH1, CH2 or CH3). In most cases, CH1 is used.
Choose the correct program for the range which is being used.

Making Measurements using the Conductivity Probe

Rinse the tip of the Conductivity Probe with distilled water. Optional: Blot the inside of the
electrode cell dry only if you are concerned about water droplets diluting or contaminating the
sample to be tested.
Insert the tip of the probe intot eh sample to be tested. Important: Be sure the electrode surfaces in
the elongated cell are completely submerged in the liquid.
While gently swirling the probe, wait for the reading on your calculator screen to stablize. This
should take no more than 5 to 10 seconds.

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Conductivity Probe

Rinse the end of the probe with distilled water before taking another measurement.
If you are taking readings at temperatures below 15 o C or above 30 o C, allow more time for the
temperature compensation to adjest and provide a stable conductivity reading.

Calibrating the Conductivity Probe with CBL-Logger Programs

The programs for the TI-92 calculator allows you to perform a two-point calibration for sensors like the
Conductivity Probe. When you perform such a calibration, you will place the electrode into two different
solutions, each with a known concentration to establish the calibration for the sensor. Follow these steps
to calibrate the probe:
Run the calibration program or calibration portion of the data collection program (when you choose
Select Inputs on the Main Menu).
Select one of the sensitivity ranges on the amplification box connected to the Conductivity Probe (0
to 200 uS, 0 to 2000 uS or 0 to 20,000 uS).
When prompted for the first calibration point, either leave the Conductivity Probe out of solution
(in air) for a zero conductivity reading (or for even better results, place it into a solution with a
known uS or mg/L value that is somewhat lower than the values you will be reading).
The CBL will be put in the READY mode and you can monitor the voltage on the CBL screen.
Nothing will appear on the calculator screen. When the voltage stabilizes, press the CBL Trigger
button. You will then be prompted to enter the reference value. Enter a value of 0 uS or mg/L if the
probe was in air, or the value of the known solution in uS or mg/L.
The CBL will be made ready for the second calibration point. Move the Conductivity Probe to a
standard solution that is near the upper range of the values you will be reading. Monitor the CBL
display until it stabilizes, then press the CBL Trigger button. You will be prompted for the second
reference value. Enter the value of the standard solution in uS or mg/L.
The calculator will determine the slope and intercept for the calibration of this probe and display
these values on the screen. Record these values; they can be manually entered as a calibration in
some of our data-collection programs. You may also choose to have them replace stored calibration
values in a program at some later time.
The CBL will be put in the READY mode and you can monitor the voltage on the CBL screen.
Nothing will appear on the TI-92 screen. When the voltage stabilizes, press the CBL Trigger button.
You will then be prompted to enter the reference value. Enter the value of the first calibration
solution (or "0," if the probe was left out of solution).
The CBL is now ready for the second calibration point. Move the Conductivity Probe to the second
reference solution. Again monitor the CBL display until it stabilizes, then press the CBL trigger
button. You will be prompted for the second reference value. Enter this value.
Note: For even better results, the two-point calibration can be performed using two standard solutions
that bracket the expected range of conductivity or concentration values you will be testing. For example,
if you expect to measure conductivity in the range of 600 mg/L to 1000 mg/L (TDS), you may want to use
a stnadard solution that is 500 mg/L for one calibration point and another standard that is 1000 mg/L for
the Second calibration point.
Once the Conductivity Probe has been calibrated, you are ready to take readings.

Approximate Values of K0 and k1

The voltage produced by this probe is linear with respect to the conductivity it measures. The slope
and intercept for calibrating this sensor are:
Switch on low (0-200 uS)
Intercept (k0): -12.08 Slope (kl): 74.61
Switch on low (0-100 mg/L TDS)

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Intercept (k0): -6.04 Slope (kl): 37.31

Switch on medium (0-2000 uS)
Intercept (k0): 12.44 Slope (kl): 726.91
Switch on medium (0-1000 mg/L TDS)
Intercept (k0): 6.22 Slope (kl): 363.46
Switch on high (0-20,000 uS)
Intercept (k0): 104.00 Slope (kl): 7142.39
Switch on high (0-10,000 mg/L)
Intercept (k0): 52.00 Slope (kl): 3571.20

Incompatibilities of the Conductivity Probe

Important: Do not place the electrode in viscous, organic liquids, such as heavy oils, glycerin
(glycerol), or ethylene glycol. Do not place the probe in acetone or non-polar solvents such as
pentane or hexane.
Note: The following probes cannot be connected tot he same interface as a Conductivity Probe and
placed in the same solution:
Dissolved Oxygen Probe
pH System
Direct-Connect Temperature Probe
This situation arises because the Conductivity Probe outputs a signal in the solution, and this signal
can affect the reading of another probe.

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