Evaluation and validation of detailed and simplified models of the uncertainty of unified [Formula: see text] measurements in aqueous solutions

Anal Chim Acta. 2021 Oct 16;1182:338923. doi: 10.1016/j.aca.2021.338923. Epub 2021 Aug 9.


The use of the unified pH concept, [Formula: see text] , applicable to aqueous and non-aqueous solutions, which allows interpreting and comparison of the acidity of different types of solutions, requires reliable and objective determination. The [Formula: see text] can be determined by a single differential potentiometry measurement referenced to an aqueous reference buffer or by a ladder of differential potentiometric measurements that allows minimisation of inconsistencies of various determinations. This work describes and assesses bottom-up evaluations of the uncertainty of these measurements, where uncertainty components are combined by the Monte Carlo Method (MCM) or Taylor Series Approximation (TSM). The MCM allows a detailed simulation of the measurements, including an iterative process involving in minimising ladder deviations. On the other hand, the TSM requires the approximate determination of minimisation uncertainty. The uncertainty evaluation was successfully applied to measuring aqueous buffers with pH of 2.00, 4.00, 7.00, and 10.00, with a standard uncertainty of 0.01. The reference and estimated values from both approaches are metrologically compatible for a 95% confidence level even when a negligible contribution of liquid junction potential uncertainty is assumed. The MCM estimated pH values with an expanded uncertainty, for the 95% confidence level, between 0.26 and 0.51, depending on the pH value and ladder inconsistencies. The minimisation uncertainty is negligible or responsible for up to 87% of the measurement uncertainty. The TSM quantified measurement uncertainties on average only 0.05 units larger than the MCM estimated ones. Additional experimental tests should be performed to test these uncertainty models for analysis performed in other laboratories and on non-aqueous solutions.

Keywords: Differential potentiometry; Monte Carlo method; Uncertainty; Unified pH scale; Validation.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Uncertainty*