Colorimeter and spectrophotometer

Many types are available, single or dual channel, expanded absorption ranges, digital or analogue, linear or logarithmic output, etc. If purchasing a complete new system, then the colorimeter is to be preferred. It is designed for the job with excellent long-term stability and freedom from drift; also, the sensitivity will suit the recommended chemistry, and the signal output will be compatible with the software and hardware. If building a system from variously sourced modules, the spectrophotometer will be a more useful choice. This is because it will accept standard flowcells, can be adjusted to any wavelength within its range, and usually has an output suitable for a chart-recorder. A spectrophotometer is also likely to have a scale-expansion facility allowing the measurement of absorbance values in excess of 1.0 A, perhaps to 2.0 A, and enabling lower values of possibly 0.1 A to have the sensitivity increased to give a full-scale reading. This saves a lot of extra work in diluting or concentrating sample solutions. A colorimeter requires a separate filter for each wavelength. Interference filters are often required in pairs, and can be expensive.

The one essential component is the flowcell (flow-through cell), which must either be the manufacturer's own special fitting, or else a more universal design (e.g. 12.5 mm external square cross-section) as is common with most spectrophotometers. They are available with an optional built-in debubbler. These flowcells for continuous flow analysis must not be confused with flow-cells with tube connections at the top and bottom of the cell, which merely allow filling and emptying by means of an external syringe mechanism. There will be two (or three with a debubbler) connections at the top of the cell. If the wavelength is to be in the UV region, a quartz or silica cell is required, otherwise an optical glass cell is adequate. The internal cell dimensions should be cylindrical, and a path length of 10 mm x 3 mm diameter giving a volume of 0.07 ml is usually suitable. This is a micro flow-through cell. A larger cell would cause too much internal mixing and interference between wash and samples, but a smaller (ultra-micro) cell volume would emphasize noise from differences in refractive index unless specified for low flow rate methods and the particular measuring instrument.

Some manufacturers are:

Hellma Cells: to get the website for your area. For UK use:

Optiglass Ltd (Starna® Brand):

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