Measuring conductivity is essential in many industries and applications such as assessing water quality in aquatic ecosystems, salt concentrations in drinking water, or checking corrosion in heat exchangers.
Electrical Conductivity or (EC) measures the ability of a material to transmit an electrical current over a certain distance, usually measured in Siemens (S) per distance.
When the number of dissolved ions (charged particles) in a solution increases, so does the solution’s ability to carry an electrical charge. A conductivity meter reads the electrical charge and measures the conductance. As they are an important tool to measure conductivity, there are many applications and industries that use them.
Applications That Use Conductivity Meters
Measuring the conductance of liquids is simple and cost-effective when using a conductivity meter. Conductivity meters are widely used for quality control purposes in a variety of applications, as they provide users with precise measurements.
Before we go into detail, here is a quick summary of conductivity meter uses:
Evaluating water quality to determine if it is drinkable or suitable for irrigation.
Measuring water quality in areas where corrosion is common, for example in wastewater facilities.
Water pollution monitoring.
Measuring the salinity of surface waters, which is important for aquatic organisms and the agricultural industry.
Assessing the purity of water in the pharmaceutical, beauty, and food industries.
Waste Treatments & Industrial Uses
When water comes from lakes, rivers, or a tap, it is not suitable for industrial use because it contains some contaminants. These contaminants are largely ionic, and if not removed, they are likely to corrode and scale industrial equipment such as heat exchangers and boilers. As conductivity measures the total concentration of ions in liquids, using a conductivity meter is perfect for monitoring the build-up of dissolved ionic solids.
Conductivity meters are also used to ensure water is safe to drink, or suitable for industrial use such as for manufacturing products in the food and beverage industry.
The effectiveness of desalination can also be monitored using a conductivity meter; it is another way to treat water and remove salts, so it is drinkable, can be used in industrial processes, and is a way to prevent scale and corrosion. Remineralization of water to prevent corrosion can also be monitored with a conductivity meter.
Conductivity meters can additionally be used to identify leaks, where leaked liquids may have high conductivity, for example, in heat exchangers. Meters are also useful to monitor the effectiveness of rinsing. By using a conductivity meter, water consumption is reduced as rinse water flows are controlled. When water with low conductivity comes into contact with a rinsed object it indicates it has effectively been cleaned.
Agriculture & Hydroponics
In hydroponics (growing plants without soil), conductivity meters are used to monitor nutrient solution concentrations. Salinity content in water is an important factor in irrigation systems when growing plants.
In agriculture, when salinity levels are elevated, salts accumulate in the soil as the water evaporates, which can degrade the soil and encourage unwanted plant growth. Conductivity in unrestricted irrigation systems should be less than 700 µS/cm, and conductivity values exceeding 3000 µS/cm should be restricted.
As fertilizers are widely used in agriculture, a conductivity meter is often used to measure the nutrient concentrations inside fertilizers to protect crops from over-fertilization (which is also wasteful for the farmer) and ensure land is safe for grazing animals. If the conductivity is too high, it indicates the nutrient concentration is at a toxic level, which can harm or even kill plants and animals.
Salinity is a vital parameter to test in aquatic systems because aquatic plants and animals have certain ranges that they can tolerate, therefore, salinity can be tested using a conductivity meter. Conductivity meters are used to warn aquarists of salinity ranges falling outside the tolerable range for different aquatic organisms.
Conductivity meters can also be used to measure pH in aquatic environments, another water parameter that is vital for aquatic organism survival. Using a conductivity meter to determine the pH of a solution may give more precision than using a regular pH meter because of the strong relationship that conductivity has with pH.
What Conductivity Meter To Use?
Depending on the industry or application you are measuring, the type of conductivity meter may vary, including how the meter works.
For high-salt solutions, a toroidal (electrodeless sensor) conductivity meter should be used. The food industry is an example that uses high-salt applications. An electrodeless sensor removes any contamination during food processing and reduces long-term maintenance costs.
If you are measuring the conductivity of a small volume (i.e. vials), a microsensor or flow-through electrode is commonly used. If you are measuring larger volumes, for example in the pharmaceutical industry, cell-type conductivity meters are used that use fittings to connect to large tanks or pipes.
If working with high temperatures and solvents, a glass electrode conductivity meter can handle such harsh conditions. They are easy to maintain and clean, however, they are easily breakable, therefore always handle and store them with care. The reason glass is used over plastic electrodes is because of the chemical reactions that can occur and the temperature limitations plastic has.
Whether you want to assess water quality in aquatic ecosystems, salt concentrations in drinking water, or check corrosion in heat exchangers, using a conductivity meter is simple and fast, therefore making them useful tools for a wide range of industries and applications.
If you would like to learn more about conductivity, or what conductivity meter best suits your needs, do not hesitate to contact our world-class team at Atlas Scientific.
A water quality monitoring buoy is an essential tool for monitoring water quality in various applications and ensuring the health of aquatic ecosystems. They provide real-time data on water quality and allow researchers to make necessary adjustments to improve water quality. Anti-fouling probe screens, including copper mesh, titanium mesh, and ceramic screens, are essential components
Microfluidics is a rapidly growing field of research that focuses on the behavior of fluids at the microscale level. It involves the study of how fluids flow through microchannels, microreactors, and microsystems. The microfluidic devices used in this field are designed to manipulate small volumes of fluids, typically in the range of microliters or nanoliters.