Analytical Sciences

Abstract − Analytical Sciences, 36(2), 187 (2020).

Critical Comparison of Reference Electrodes with Salt Bridges Contained in Nanoporous Glass with 5, 20, 50, and 100 nm Diameter Pores
Evan L. ANDERSON, Blair K. TROUDT, and Philippe BÜHLMANN
Department of Chemistry, University of Minnesota, 207 Pleasant St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
Porous glass frits are frequently used to contain the salt bridges through which reference electrodes interface samples. Prior work with widely used glass frits with 4 – 10 nm diameter pores showed that, when samples have a low electrolyte strength, electrostatic screening of sample ions by charged sites on the glass surface occurs. This creates an ion-specific phase-boundary potential at the interface between the sample and frit, and it biases the potential of the reference half-cell. Use of frits with much larger pores eliminates this problem but results in the need for frequent replenishing of the bridge electrolyte. A methodical study to determine the optimum pore size has been missing. We show here that charge screening of sample ions occurs when the pore size of nanoporous glass frits is on the order of 1 – 50 nm and samples have a low electrolyte strength. An increase in pores size to 100 nm eliminates charge screening in samples with ionic strengths in the 1.0 M to 3.3 × 10−4 M range. However, the rates of electrolyte solution flow through frits with 1, 5, 20, 50, and 100 nm pores are still low, which makes diffusion the dominant mode of ion transport into and out of these frits. Consequently, the flow of bridge electrolyte into samples is not fast enough to prevent diffusion of ions and electrically neutral components from the sample diffusing into the salt bridge, which can result in cross contamination among samples.