Titration instruments are used to determine the concentration of dissolved substances. Titration is based on a complete chemical reaction between the analyte and a reagent or titrant of known concentration that is added to the sample. The analyte is the substance which a laboratory test is designed to measure. The reagent or titrant is the substance that produces a chemical reaction in order to determine the presence of the analyte. There are two basic titration methods: manual and automatic. Manual titration is performed with a burette, a piece of laboratory glassware that has volumetric graduations along its length and a tap or stopcock on its bottom. Automatic titration is performed with an auto-titrator, an electrically-powered laboratory instrument that can be interfaced to a personal computer (PC). Typically, automatic titration instruments are used for repetitive titrations.
Addition and Indication Methods
Titration instruments differ in terms of addition and indication methods. There are two titrant addition methods: volumetric and coulometric. Volumetric devices add the titrant directly to the sample. Coulometric devices generate the titrant electromechanically. There are many different titration indication methods. Voltametry, a technique also known as the Karl Fischer water determination method, measures the concentration-dependent potential of a solution against a reference potential. Potentiometry, redox and precipitation measure the potential at a constant electric current. Photometry, complexometry, and turbidimetry measure the light transmission of a colored or turbid solution with a photometric sensor. With amperometry, the current flowing in a sample is measured at a constant potential. Titration instruments that measure conductivity include a conductivity meter while devices that measure temperature include a sensor.
Selecting Titration Instruments
Selecting titration instruments requires an analysis of product specifications, features, display types, and computer interfaces. Product specifications for titration instruments include concentration range and reaction time. Some instruments provide data storage and temperature-compensation features. Others measure solids or gases. In terms of display types, titration instruments with analog or digital front panels are commonly available. Analog user inputs include potentiometers, dials and switches. Digital front panels can be setup or programmed using a digital keypad or menus. Titration instruments that can be controlled or monitored via a computer interface use serial or parallel communications and may include application software. RS232, RS485 and universal serial bus (USB) are common serial interfaces. The general-purpose interface bus (GPIB) is a common parallel interface.