Back to basics

Measuring Conductivity

By William F. Harfst

CONDUCTIVITY INSTRUMENTS MONITORING RESISTIVITY

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Abstract

For February's archive article we are sharing an article from our Back to Basics series. Author William F. Harfst examines conductivity and its importance to high-purity water treatment. This column originally appeared in March 1995.

Conductivity measurements are used routinely to determine the purity of water. The test is simple to perform, and the results are available instantly. Many types of conductivity instruments are on the market, including models designed for field, bench-top, or in-line analysis. But obtaining accurate measurements on high-purity water samples requires a basic understanding of the principles of conductivity. What do you need to know? Let’s go back to the basics and find out.

What is Conductivity?

When a salt dissolves in water, it dissociates to form positively and negatively charged ions. These ions allow an electronic current to flow through the solution—the more ions in solution, the greater the current flow. Conductivity is the measure of the water’s capability for conducting this electric current.

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