Wet chemical analysis involves identifying and quantifying the desired elements present in a liquid sample using several methods. It can be divided into two main types, the qualitative analysis identifies the elements and the quantitative analysis determines the quantity. With chemical reagents, the analyte can be used to convert a dye proportionally, which can be read-out visually or photometrically.
The wet chemical analysis comprises a multitude of techniques, including titration, distillation, spectrophotometry (UV/Vis/IR), colorimetry, filtration, drying, weighing, pH tests, and direct read with electrodes. These methods of analysis may be more labor-intensive compared to other methods as automation can’t be applied to some of these techniques.
pH quantifies the amount of free hydrogen and hydroxyl ions present in the water and therefore, the pH value (0-14, 7 being neutral) indicates the acidity and alkalinity of a solution. pH measurement is the most significant test performed in laboratories as many of the physical, chemical, and biological processes are dependent on pH. The pH measurement using pH meter gives the most accurate results. A pH meter measures the voltage difference between two electrodes when dipped in a solution. Standard buffer solutions are used for calibration of the pH meter to produce reliable and reproducible results.
Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) measures the amount of dissolved oxygen consumed by microorganisms in the aerobic decomposition of organic matter from water. BOD determination estimates the amount of biodegradable organic matter present in wastewater, effluent, and polluted waters. The two widely used methods for BOD measurement are the dilution method and the manometric method.
Chemical oxygen demand (COD) is the measurement of oxygen required to chemically oxidize organic substances in water. Therefore, COD evaluates water and wastewater quality.
The COD test is carried out in the presence of a strong oxidant under acidic conditions. A known excess of the oxidant is added to the sample and once the oxidation is complete, the amount of oxidant remaining in the solution is estimated by titration using an indicator solution. The COD test takes up to 2-3 hours to complete as compared to BOD (5 days) and measures all organic contaminants, including the non-biodegradable organics.
COD can be analyzed using a cuvette pre-filled with reagents containing chromium (VI) that converts to chromium (III) by the organic contaminants of the sample during the thermal pre-treatment. The amount of chromium (VI) consumed is proportional to the amount of COD and can be detected directly through photometry.
Soil nutrients such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are essential in plant growth. An increase in N deposits harms the soil ecosystem as it increases soil acidity, creates a nutrient imbalance, alters the composition of soil microbes, and contributes to increased emission of greenhouse gas. Hence, it is necessary to routinely test N in food and environmental laboratories.
There are many methods for the determination of N. These methods require an initial oxidation step that converts nitrogen-containing organic compounds to inorganic nitrogen entities. The oxidation step can be carried out by either one of these methods: (1) Kjeldahl digestion, (2) ultraviolet (UV) oxidation, (3) persulfate oxidation, and (4) high-temperature oxidation (combustion).
Measuring P has become a crucial step in environmental analysis. High levels of P and N in water bodies can compromise the quality of water, as they trigger the rapid growth of toxic algae. Analysis of P is usually performed by the ascorbic acid-molybdate method, e.g. by a ready-to-use test kit which is quantitatively analyzed by a photometer. N and P analyzers can be stand-alone instruments or a combination of both the analyzers.
Total organic carbon (TOC) determines the amount of carbon present in an organic compound. TOC is a highly sensitive, non-specific measurement of all organic matter present in a sample. It is, therefore used to regulate the organic chemical discharge to the environment in a manufacturing plant. Detection of TOC is also an important aspect in the field of potable water purification due to the disinfection of byproducts. There are different approaches to determine TOC:
This method is often considered as a complementary method to COD and can also be performed with specific cell test kits.