Turbidity Units

Different turbidity instruments detect light intensity differently. The three main techniques are perpendicular scattering (nephelometry), backscattering, and forward scattering. Different turbidity units have evolved in connection with different designs. The JTU is a purely optical scale and correlates with forward scattering measurements. The value of one JTU corresponds to the turbidity of a liter of distilled water with 1 mg (1 ppm) of suspended diatoma-ceous fullers earth (an inert material).

NTUs are based on a U.S. EPA-approved stable polymeric suspension standard and correlate with perpendicular scattering designs.

FTUs use a Formazin polymer standard and also correlate with perpendicular scattering designs. Two Formazin scales are used, and according to some sources, the NTU reference standards are more stable and last longer than the FTU standards. Turbidity measurement error cannot be less than the accuracy at which the standard calibrating solution is available. In Formazin standards, this variation can approach 1%.

All turbidity units measure the amount of solid particles in suspension. Parts per million (ppm) units refer to the weight of the solids in suspension. However, because this measurement requires individual calibration, they usually refer to ppm of silica (silicon dioxide). Therefore, if the cloudiness (turbidity) of the process sample is the same as the turbidity resulting when 1 mg of silica is mixed in a liter of distilled water, the turbidity reading is 1 ppm on the silica scale.

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