Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Ten Things Everyone Should Know about pH and ORP

Reprinted with permission from AquaMetrix Instruments

Here is a list of the ten things anyone in the business of measuring the pH or ORP of their process should know that will make his or her job more stress-free.

1. pH measurements are only good to 0.1 pH units.

Electrodes are funny things. They are the only electronic components that don’t even have specifications listed in their data sheets. One major figure of merit, the impedance of the glass electrode, is on the order of megaohms and can vary by a factor of two. Cross sensitivity to other ions (e.g. sodium), response time and differences between any two electrodes limit the accuracy of measurement. Expecting ac- curacy of greater than 0.1 pH units is

2. Speaking of accuracy... It is not the same as precision.

For a consistent process a pH probe can achieve precision of results to within 0.02 units but it’s accuracy will always be limited by variables such as calibration accuracy, high sodium content or careful routine calibration, however, will narrow the gap between the accuracy of readings closer to the lower level of precision.

3. ORP measurements are only good to ± 20 mV.

Once again the measurement of ORP might be characterized by a high precision but the accuracy of the reading is constrained by the dif culty of calibration, as explained in point 6, and the non-buffered calibration solutions that allow the ORP value of the calibration solutions to change over time. Whereas the buffered composition of pH calibration solutions insures that they will change minimally an ORP calibrations solution is a mixture of Fe2+ and Fe3+ salts. Just the addition of air to the mixture will increase the ORP of the mixture. So don’t look for “NIST traceable” on the label of an ORP calibration solution.

4. ORP measurements are relative.

The process electrode is nothing more than a platinum (or gold) band upon which oxidation (reduction) reactions take place. To complete the circuit, as in all potentiometric devices, is a
reference electrode. Usually that is the same Ag/AgCl electrode used in a pH probe so the REDOX potential that you read is the difference between the Pt band process electrode and the arbitrarily chosen reference electrode. What matters most with an ORP measurement is its change to an agreed upon standard.

5. pH calibration requires two points.

Calibration measures the response of an instrument as one changes the measurement variable in a known way. For pH measurements that measurement variable is the concentration of hydrogen ions. One calibrates a pH probe by drawing a line through points representing the response of a pH probe to more than one H+ ion concentrations (or pH values). Therefore calibration requires at least two points.

6. ORP calibration can only realistically be done with one point.

This sounds like a reversal of point 4 but it’s not. ORP is not a measure of any one species (e.g. H+ ions or oxygen molecules). It measures the collective REDOX potential of everything in the water. Furthermore calibration solutions, e.g. 200 mV Light’s solution and 600 mV Zobell’s solution are two completely different mixtures of reagents. Therefore all we can is choose one calibration solution and calibrate for it.

7. ORP measurements can be slow.

Stick an ORP probe in a calibration solution and you will get a steady reading with- in half a minute. Take the same probe and stick it in a glass of tap water and it might take 20 minutes for the reading to settle to the 200-300 mV that is typical of tap water. The response of the process electrodes to the REDOX reactions that take place on the surface of a Pt electrode depends on the speed of the many reactions that give the potential and the rate at which molecules diffuse through the water. The Fe2+ and Fe 3+ ions that comprise most of the ORP value in calibration solutions react very quickly with the Pt but the Cl- and dissolved oxygen that make up tap water react much more slowly. So the key to successful ORP measurement is patience.

8. pH measurements must be temperature compensated to be accurate.

A pH measurement is the determination of H+ ions in solution. Higher temperature causes the chemical activity to increase and the pH reading to increase accordingly. So we must remove the temperature effect by measuring it and using the well known Nernst equation to correct it for the reading at 250C. (The correction is quite simple. The pH value is proportional to temperature when the latter is an absolute value (i.e. in Kelvins).

9. ORP measurements are affected by temperature but are NOT corrected for it.

An ORP value simply reflects the ability of whatever is in the water to oxidize whatever contaminants are in the water. Of course oxidation speeds up at higher temperatures. But since ORP measures the rate of chemical reactions and not any one chemical species there is no need to correct it. However we can convert the temperature reading to the ORP that we would measure at 250 C so that we have a basis for comparing the chemistry of the process. That’s why we provide a temperature sensing thermistor or RTD with our differential ORP probes.

10. A differential probe properly cared for will last a long time but it won’t last forever.

Over time chemicals in the process make their way through the junction or salt bridge and into the pH 7 buffer that bathes the reference electrode. Manufacturers go to great length to minimize this contamination but they can only slow it down. Aquametrix differential probes allow the user to cheaply and quickly replenish both the pH 7 solution and the salt bridge so that our probes our industry leaders when it comes to probe lifetime. Nonetheless electrodes themselves lose their efficiency as the glass becomes contaminated and/or eroded by the process. However the good news that, with routine calibration and maintenance an Aquametrix differential probe can last for years in most environments. As the car ads say, “your mileage will vary” but rest assured there is no probe on the market that will outlast an Aquametrix differential probe... as long as you take good care of it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Diaphragm Seals: Critical Isolation and Protection for Your Process Instruments

Diaphragm Seal
Diaphragm Seal courtesy of
Diaphragm seals play a critical role in protecting items like pressure switches, gauges, and transmitters from the fluid being evaluated by the sensor. The seal is a flexible membrane which both seals and isolates an enclosure. Pressure crosses the barrier without inhibition, but the material being contained does not. Typical materials composing diaphragm seals are elastomers, with rubbers being the prime substance in both general and specialty purposes.

In the operating principle of the diaphragm seal, the chamber between the diaphragm and the instrument is filled with system fluid, allowing for the transfer of pressure from the process media to the sensor being protected. The seals are attached to the process by threaded, open flange, sanitary, or other forms of connection.  The seals can also be known as ‘chemical seals’ or ‘gauge guards’. Stainless steel, Carpenter 20, Hastelloy, Monel, Inconel, and titanium are used in high pressure environments, and some materials are known to work better when paired with certain chemicals.
Diagram of diaphragm seal
Diagram of diaphragm seal
(courtesy of Wikipedia)

Sanitary processes, such as food and pharmaceuticals, use diaphragm seals to prevent against the accumulation of process fluid in pressure ports. If such a buildup were to occur, such as milk invading a pressure port on a pressure gauge and spoiling, the quality and purity of the fluid in the process may be compromised. Extremely pure process fluids, like ultra-pure water, could be contaminated by the metal surface of a process sensor. Pneumatic systems rely on the elimination of even the smallest pressure fluctuations, and diaphragm seals prevent those by ensuring the separation of the process materials from the sensors.

UE Pressure Switch
Diaphragm seals protect the sensors
on pressure switches like this
United Electric Controls model.
Despite their protective function and reliability, there are some potential complications related to diaphragm seals. Devices are now built to address and counter many potential issues related to process monitoring involving diaphragm seals. Products seek to eliminate any and all “dead space,” allow for continuous process flow, and are self-cleaning thanks to continuous flow design. Some high pressure seals come equipped with anti-clogging features, accomplished by the elimination of internal cavities while protecting gauges. Multi-purpose seals reduce temperature influence and improve instrument performance while pinpointing and diffusing areas of high stress. These pre-emptive measures result in longer instrument life-cycles and improve performance while ensuring protection from corrosion. The seals’ ability to protect both process quality and their own vitality make them essential components of process control.

For more information on diaphragm seals, visit Ives Equipment at or call (877) 768-1600.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Introduction to Flowmeters

magnetic flowmeters
Magnetic flowmeters
(courtesy of Siemens)
Flowmeters measure the rate or quantity of moving fluids, in most cases liquid or gas, in an open channel or closed conduit. There are two basic flow measuring systems: those which produce volumetric flow measurements and those delivering a weight or mass based measurement. These two systems, required in many industries such as power, chemical, and water, can be integrated into existing or new installations.

Turbine flow meter
Turbine flow meter
internal view
(courtesy of Niagara)
For successful integration, the flow measurement systems can be installed in one of several methods, depending upon the technology employed by the instrument. For inline installation, fittings that create upstream and downstream connections that allow for flowmeter installation as an integral part of the piping system. Another configuration, direct insertion, will have a probe or assembly that extends into the piping cross section. There are also non-contact instruments that clamp on the exterior surface of the piping add gather measurements through the pipe wall without any contact with the flowing media.

Because they are needed for a variety of uses and industries, there are multiple types of flowmeters classified generally into four main groups: mechanical, inferential, electrical, and other.
Variable Area Flowmeters
Variable Area Flowmeters
(courtesy of Siemens)

Quantity meters, more commonly known as positive displacement meters, mass flowmeters, and fixed restriction variable head type flowmeters all fall beneath the mechanical category. Fixed restriction variable head type flowmeters use different sensors and tubes, such as orifice plates, flow nozzles, and venturi and pitot tubes.

Inferential flowmeters include turbine and target flowmeters, as well as variable area flowmeters also known as rotameters.

Laser doppler anemometers, ultrasonic flowmeters, and electromagnetic flowmeters are all electrical-type flowmeters.

For any flowmeter application or question, visit Ives Equipment at or call (877) 768-1600.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Instrumentation and Controls for the Grain Industry

instruments and control for grain producers
Instruments and control for grain producers.
Abstracted with permission from the Siemens "For the Love of Grain" article.  View the complete document at  the bottom of this post or download it from Ives Equipment here.

A successful grain merchant during the 1840s is considering expansion in the coming years. Recent years have been fruitful, but there are rumors of a new invention on the market: a grain elevator. Claims are that this elevator is able to unload more than 1,000 bushels each hour! Compare this to current operations where workers carry sacks of grain on their backs from wagons to waiting ships. Our grain merchant has seen firsthand the hazards of this process – everything from suffocating and explosive grain dust to the daily stresses on workers’ bodies. Will this new technology be able to increase the merchant’s profits as well as make a safer working environment for employees?

Over a century and a half later, mechanized equipment is now an essential part of the grain industry, from planting and growing to harvesting, handling, and milling grain. Your challenges are still the same as those of nineteenth century grain operators, though – how can you improve processes and cut costs while also increasing safety?

Promoting a culture of safety

Working with grain has the potential to be deadly, especially when grain is in motion. Similar to ‘quicksand,’ moving grain can bury a worker in seconds. In 2010, U.S. grain operators reported that fifty-one workers had been trapped in grain, more than in any year since Purdue University began collecting data on grain entrapments in 1978. Sadly, almost half of these entrapments led to fatalities.

Increasing automation

To prevent deadly occurrences such as these, the grain industry is increasingly taking steps to reduce grain handling and storage hazards. Improving efficiency in grain facilities through automation is becoming a growing industry trend. A concern for safety is one driver behind automating operations, as a reduction in human interactions with grain decreases the occurrence of accidents.

Another reason for the push towards automation is that owners are constantly looking to increase production and reduce expenses while still producing a high quality product. A solution is to invest in automated processes in a facility. Many facilities have moved to complete automation of production, termed Totally Integrated Automation (TIA).

Refining inventory management 

Tracking inventory in grain silos is a significant component of a successful grain operation. Managing raw materials and finished products is essential for keeping processes efficient and optimizing inventory ordering and shipments. By knowing where materials are located, companies can use these resources more effectively, decreasing human intervention and increasing efficiency. As well, checking bin levels on a regular basis requires substantial labor costs. To make inventory track-ing faster and more streamlined, the industry is continually moving towards automated inventory management.

Read complete article below:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New Ives Equipment Video

Ives Equipment, founded in 1954, provides a diverse range of process control equipment, including valves, regulators, wireless products, flow products, pressure gauges, control products, level instrumentation, sanitary products, temperature instruments, analytical products, electric heat trace and bio-pharmaceutical products.

For more than 60 years, Ives Equipment Corporation has successfully served the industries of eastern and central Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, metro NY, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington DC with the latest in process control equipment and services.

The Ives business is built on a foundation of quality people, highly trained and experienced, who take a keen interest in finding the optimum solutions to customers' control problems.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

When It Comes to Pressure & Temperature Switches, Understand the Difference Between Switch Normal and Process Normal

Diagram of pressure switch
Diagram of pressure
switch. Note the SPDT
electrical switch on top.
  (Courtesy of United
Electric Controls
The normal status of a switch can be a confusing aspect of understanding the function of connected electrical and logic components in a process control application. The misunderstanding stems from the ambiguity of the word normal. Typically, electrical switch contacts are classified as being normally-open or normally-closed, referring to the open or closed status of the contacts under normal conditions. The key in understanding the normal state of a switch contact requires one to dissociate from their thinking, the concept or definition of normal used in everyday conversation. Where, among friends in casual conversation, the word normal tends to refer to what is expected, the normal status of the switch is, explicitly, its contacts electrical status when no stimulus is applied, that is, when the switch is at rest. An applied example of this definition is a momentary-contact pushbutton switch is not being pressed, because, when the pushbutton is not being pressed, the switch is experiencing no physical stimulation. Electrical schematic drawings always represent switches in their normal status. When an electrical switch on a lamp is in its normally-open state, the switch is open while receiving no physical stimulation.

Temperature switch (UEC)
Temperature switch (courtesy of
United Electric Controls)
The concept of normal is somewhat more complex when applied to pressure and temperature switches. Pressure and temperature switches are actuated, not by electrical signal or human contact, but by process related stimuli, i.e. temperature, flow, pressure, or level. A flow switch is actuated by a defined amount of flow through a pipe.  Lets say a flow switch is engineered to trigger an alarm when the flow rate inside a pipe is below a certain level. Even if the contacts of the flow switch are designated as being in their normally-closed status, the switch will be open when enough fluid is flowing through the pipe. The normal switch status (closed) indicates an abnormal process flow rate condition, because the switch is only going to be in its normal electrical status when the flow is low. Considering this inverse nature (normal switch status indicating abnormal process status), switch contacts are conventionally represented in accordance with the switch operation and not the process operation. The manufacturers of the pressure and temperature switches cannot predict the normal status of particular processes in which their switches will be used. By utilizing the conventional switch terminology, there is a common status designation for the normal status of the switch. The designation is applicable and readable regardless of the process conditions of the specific industry using the switch. This convention provides for universal comprehension of control system electrical schematics and other symbolic representations of control system operation.
Pressure switch
Pressure switch (courtesy of
United Electric Controls)

In making the connection between the normal state of switch contacts and the normal state of a process, one should relate the switch state to the process condition which would serve as the stimulus to change the switch state. For a limit switch, which responds to physical contact by an object, normal means the target is not contacting the switch. For a proximity switch, normal means the target is far away. A normal pressure switch condition occurs when the pressure is low, or may even indicate a vacuum. Level switches are normal when the level is empty. Normal for a temperature switch means the temperature is low. Flow switches are normal when there is a low flow rate, or the fluid is stopped. Both an understanding of normal as defined by the manufacturer of the switch and normal in terms of industry specific processes is necessary to correctly interpret the status of an operation. Once the concept of normal used in everyday conversation is uncoupled from your process control thinking, things fall into place easily.