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Chemistry LibreTexts

11: Electrochemical Methods

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  • In Chapter 10 we examined several spectroscopic techniques that take advantage of the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and matter. In this chapter we turn our attention to electrochemical techniques in which the potential, current, or charge in an electrochemical cell serves as the analytical signal.

    Although there are only three basic electrochemical signals, there are a many possible experimental designs—too many, in fact, to cover adequately in an introductory textbook. The simplest division of electrochemical techniques is between bulk techniques, in which we measure a property of the solution in the electrochemical cell, and interfacial techniques, in which the potential, charge, or current depends on the species present at the interface between an electrode and the solution in which it sits. The measurement of a solution’s conductivity, which is proportional to the total concentration of dissolved ions, is one example of a bulk electrochemical technique. A determination of pH using a pH electrode is an example of an interfacial electrochemical technique. Only interfacial electrochemical methods receive further consideration in this chapter.

    • 11.1: Overview of Electrochemistry
      The focus of this chapter is on analytical techniques that use a measurement of potential, charge, or current to determine an analyte’s concentration or to characterize an analyte’s chemical reactivity. Collectively we call this area of analytical chemistry electrochemistry because its originated from the study of the movement of electrons in an oxidation–reduction reaction.  Despite the difference in instrumentation, all electrochemical techniques share several common features.
    • 11.2: Potentiometric Methods
      In potentiometry we measure the potential of an electrochemical cell under static conditions. Because no current—or only a negligible current—flows through the electrochemical cell, its composition remains unchanged. For this reason, potentiometry is a useful quantitative method. The first quantitative potentiometric applications appeared soon after the formulation of the Nernst equation, which relates an electrochemical cell’s potential to the concentration of electroactive species in the cell.
    • 11.3: Coulometric Methods
      Coulometry is based on an exhaustive electrolysis of the analyte. By exhaustive we mean that the analyte is completely oxidized or reduced at the working electrode or that it reacts completely with a reagent generated at the working electrode. There are two forms of coulometry: controlled-potential coulometry, in which we apply a constant potential to the electrochemical cell, and controlled-current coulometry, in which we pass a constant current through the electrochemical cell.
    • 11.4: Voltammetric Methods
      In voltammetry we apply a time-dependent potential to an electrochemical cell and measure the resulting current as a function of that potential. We call the resulting plot of current versus applied potential a voltammogram, and it is the electrochemical equivalent of a spectrum in spectroscopy, providing quantitative and qualitative information about the species involved in the oxidation or reduction reaction.
    • 11.E: Electrochemical Methods (Exercises)
      These are homework exercises to accompany "Chapter 11: Electrochemical Methods" from Harvey's "Analytical Chemistry 2.0" Textmap.
    • 11.S: Electrochemical Methods (Summary)
      This is a summary to accompany "Chapter 11: Electrochemical Methods" from Harvey's "Analytical Chemistry 2.0" Textmap.

    Thumbnail:Comparison of the current response of a platinum disc electrode in 1 M sulfuric acid given by linear sweep voltammetry and staircase voltammetry methods. Image used with permission (CC BY-SA 3.0; Earth-Rare).