Galvanic Cell

The ranges of the galvanic-cell DO analyzer are as low as 0 to 20 ppb for applications such as measuring DO content in boiler feedwater.

All galvanic cells consist of an electrolyte and two electrodes (see Figure 7.8.8). Electrolyte oxygen content is

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FIG. 7.8.6 Cleaner assembly for freeing the membrane surface of a DO probe of buildup or biological growths. (Reprinted, with permission, from Robertshaw Controls Co.)
FIG. 7.8.7 Probe-type polarographic cell oxygen detector and flotation collar mount.

brought into equilibrium with that of the sample. The electrodes are polarized by an applied voltage that causes electrochemical reactions when oxygen contacts the electrodes. In this reaction, the cathode reduces oxygen into hydroxide, thus releasing four electrons for each molecule of oxygen. These electrons cause a current flow through the electrolyte, with magnitude in proportion to the electrolyte oxygen concentration.

The following gases are likely to contaminate the cell: chlorine and other halogens, high concentrations of carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and sulfur dioxide.

Special cells have been developed to minimize the effect of background gases. When an acid gas (such as CO2) that would neutralize a potassium hydroxide electrolyte solution is present in the background, a potassium bicarbonate electrolyte can be used. Special cells are also available

FIG. 7.8.8 Probe-type galvanic cell oxygen detector.

for measuring oxygen in acetylene and fuel gases.

In flow-through cell designs, sampling systems bring the process stream to the analyzer and filter it, scrub it with caustic, or otherwise prepare it for measurement. The probe-type membrane design does not require a sampling system if it can be located in a representative process area where process stream pressure, temperature, and velocity are compatible with the cell's mechanical and chemical design.

Probe Design

In this design (see Figure 7.8.8), the electrodes are wetted by an electrolytic solution retained by a membrane (usually Teflon). This membrane acts as a selective diffusion layer, allowing oxygen to diffuse into the sensor while keeping foreign matter out. The sensor is usually mounted in a thermostatically controlled housing; therefore, the thermistor compensates for minor temperature variations.

Membrane characteristics are critical to performance. The ideal membrane is inert, stable, strong, permeable to oxygen, and impermeable to other ions and water molecules. In most cases, a compromise solution is accepted.

Figure 7.8.9 shows the design of a gold-copper electrode, galvanic (amperometric) cell and its rail mounting installation. The maintenance requirements of this design

FIG. 7.8.9 Galvanic DO cell and rail mounting installation design. (Reprinted, with permission, from Fischer & Porter Co.)

are reduced with an electrolyte supply that lasts for 2 to 3 years and an easily replaceable membrane assembly. These analyzer systems are available in weatherproof housing, 1% of span inaccuracy, and with 4 to 20 mA of transmitter output.

Flow-Through Design

In these cells, the process sample stream bubbles through the electrolyte. Therefore, the oxygen concentration of the electrolyte is in equilibrium with the sample oxygen content, and the resulting ion current between electrodes represents this concentration.

In some trace analyzer designs, the cathode is made of a porous metal, and the sample gas passes through this electrode, immersed in the electrolyte. Oxygen reduction is usually complete within the pores of this electrode.

Sampling systems are usually provided with these cells, consisting of filtering and scrubbing components and flow, pressure, and temperature regulators.

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