In class we did an experiment to measure chloride in different water sources, including a lake. We used Ion-selective electrode of Ag/AgCl technique. We did the calibration curve and all steps and measurments in different sources of water are consistent, for example drinking water was a bit below 250ppm. But when measuring lake water we get a measurment of 0, why could this be happening? I can't find a reason

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Are you sure that the procedure was followed correctly? $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 4:07
  • $\begingroup$ Why can't this be true? $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ Assuming you have followed correctly the experimental procedure, the concentration in lake water may be lower then the sensibility of your electrode. $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 11:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @IvanNeretin Unless they found a first lake of freshly distilled water in the world, that's impossible. They either did something wrong or there was interference from other stuff in water. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Apr 14 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ Measuring a concentration with an $\ce{Ag/AgCl}$ electrode cannot give zero, it can give a concentration "lower than $\pu{0.00xxx}$" but it cannot be zero, if a concentration is equal to zero, applying Nernst's law gives you a potential equal to ± infinite, which does not make sense. $\endgroup$
    – Maurice
    Apr 14 at 19:22

Most likely this was an artificial "lake" sample and someone gave you distilled water instead. Making artificial water samples is not an unusual practice in teaching laboratories.

Natural water cannot have zero concentration of chloride ion. Sodium and chloride ions are very common contaminants even in pure reagents. There is no "zero" concentration concept in analytical chemistry at all. The proper practice is to write "Not detected" instead of saying 0 ppm. All it means that it was below the detection limit of the ion-selective electrode. Ion selective electrode usually measure samples in parts per million (mg/L) range. Typical limits of detections are in single digit ppm.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.