Spectrophotometric Calibration of pH Electrodes in Seawater Using Purified m-Cresol Purple

Document Type


Publication Date



Seawater, Liquids, Electrodes, Calibration, Amorphous materials

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



This work examines the use of purified meta-cresol purple (mCP) for direct spectrophotometric calibration of glass pH electrodes in seawater. The procedures used in this investigation allow for simple, inexpensive electrode calibrations over salinities of 20–40 and temperatures of 278.15–308.15 K without preparation of synthetic Tris seawater buffers. The optimal pH range is ∼7.0–8.1. Spectrophotometric calibrations enable straightforward, quantitative distinctions between Nernstian and non-Nernstian electrode behavior. For the electrodes examined in this study, both types of behavior were observed. Furthermore, calibrations performed in natural seawater allow direct determination of the influence of salinity on electrode performance. The procedures developed in this study account for salinity-induced variations in liquid junction potentials that, if not taken into account, would create pH inconsistencies of 0.028 over a 10-unit change in salinity. Spectrophotometric calibration can also be used to expeditiously determine the intercept potential (i.e., the potential corresponding to pH 0) of an electrode that has reliably demonstrated Nernstian behavior. Titrations to ascertain Nernstian behavior and salinity effects can be undertaken relatively infrequently (∼weekly to monthly). One-point determinations of intercept potential should be undertaken frequently (∼daily) to monitor for stable electrode behavior and ensure accurate potentiometric pH determinations.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Environmental Science & Technology, v. 46, issue 9, p. 5018-5024