Ensuring Accurate Water Analysis Measurements

Source: Thermo Scientific

Jim Cairns, Process Business Manager, and Ricki Hartwell, Global Product Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific explain the importance of combining the process side and the laboratory side of water analysis.

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The following is an excerpt from a Q&A with Water Online Radio. Click on the Radio Player above to hear the full interview.

Water Online Radio Can you give us a rundown on the Water Analysis unit at Thermo Fisher Scientific?

Jim: The water analysis unit has a process side and a lab side. I'm responsible for the process side, and we're basically creating and supplying instrumentation for the water industry that helps measure and keep that water clean. We’re also helping end users meet regulations.

Ricki: Our other side is the lab instrument side. We complement the process with electric chemistry and optical measurements for pH conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and concentration using an ion-selective electrode.

Water Online Radio: Process measurements are vital for cost control and effluent control, but there's a big difference between process measurements and good process measurement. Can you elaborate on this?

Ricki: When you're taking process measurements, you want to make sure that your readings correlate with what your lab instruments are reporting. On the lab side, we focus on making sure our lab technology matches our process technology. That way, you're getting an accurate process measurement the first time, and don't have to take the reading again.

Water Online Radio: What are some of the challenges with that?

Jim: Probably one of the biggest challenges for our customers is that the process measurement has to be validated. They want to know that the technology is working the way it's supposed to. That's where Ricki's side of the business comes in, because lab instrumentation is used to validate that online process instrumentation. Sometimes it can be a difficult thing to balance the two.

Usually, it's because different instrumentations or technologies are being used to check similar measurements, and it can be tricky to get them to coincide or work together. It’s time consuming to take repeat measurements. That's why Ricki and I work closely together to make sure that these technologies are pretty much right next to each other.

Water Online Radio: Say I'm an executive decision maker at one of your customer companies. What things should I know in order to accomplish what you just talked about?

Jim: The key is making sure that you're doing the same thing in the line that you're doing in the lab. This will ensure that you're validating those processes properly.

Water Online Radio: Thermo Scientific Orion is a well-known name for laboratory pH and measurements. Can you talk about the applications of that?

Ricki: We've been developing centers for over fifty years now, and we've been focused on making sure the electrodes are high quality, with accurate, fast readings. Our Ross pH electrodes are very well-known for being highly accurate and reliable, so we've developed those to make sure that customers feel comfortable using them, and that they trust the readings when they get them.

Jim: From the process side, we've gone another step to take the exact technology that made the Orion name for the pH Ross technology, and put that into an online package. Now you can have that same Ross technology that you're used to, and standardize in the lab, too.

Water Online Radio: The better measurements you have, the more information you have. On the process side, what impact does that have in terms of cost control?

Jim: It's actually pretty huge. If you think about it, someone has to go up to the line and check the pH. They'll take that and an offline measurement and go back to the lab and say, “Okay, it was reading on the line pH 7.5, but I'm reading pH 6.9 in the lab.”

A lot of things can happen from Point A to Point B. Plus, there are different pH technologies. It comes down to time and efficiency. If you use the same technologies at the same time, those measurements are usually very accurate. It's validated quickly, so it allows the technicians to move on to the more important stuff. They get to keep the processes going.

Water Online Radio: Chlorine is a common measurement in the water industry. What options do you offer?

Jim: It's probably the most common measurement that's out there, especially in the wastewater/drinking water area. The technology that's used is DPD, and it’s been around forever. It's probably one of the measurements that we see the least amount of innovation on. It's tried and true, and the same thing's been around for a long time. Like we said a little bit earlier, what we're trying to do is make that synergy between lab and process, to make it as easy as possible.

We do have a new instrument coming out. We call it the Chlorine XP. It's an online instrument that's capable of doing both total chlorine and free chlorine in the same instrument. It can also administer other measurements such as pH and conductivity. You can do four to five measurements, just in the one unit.

We've added some unique measurement technology within the reaction cell. It's patented technology that allows us to actually double the reagent's life. The standard is usually about 30 days. We can get 60 days-plus out of it, and it's extremely accurate. For example, we do a zero calibration with every measurement prior to making the measurement, where other systems only do this once, when it’s first installed.

This is an important distinction, because especially for drinking water, water quality changes over the seasons. Color changes are going to happen, too, and those are going to affect your measurements. With this new instrument, we basically zero that out...

Click on the Radio Player above to hear the full interview.