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.
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).