Electrochemical Detection of Free-Chlorine in Water Samples Facilitated by In-Situ pH Control Using Interdigitated Microelectrodes

Residual free-chlorine concentration in water supplies is a key metric studied to ensure disinfection. High residual chlorine concentrations lead to unpleasant odours and tastes, while low concentrations may lead to inadequate disinfection. The concentration is most commonly monitored using colorimetric techniques which require additional reagents. Electrochemical analysis offers the possibility for in-line analysis without the need for additional reagents. Electrochemical-based detection of chlorine is influenced by the solution pH, which defines the particular chlorine ionic species present in solution. As such, controlling the pH is essential to enable electrochemical based detection of residual chlorine in water. To this end, we explore the application of solid state interdigitated electrodes to tailor the in-situ pH of a solution while simultaneously detecting free-chlorine. Finite element simulations and subsequent electrochemical characterization, using gold interdigitated microelectrode arrays, were employed to explore the feasibility of an in-situ pH control approach. In practice, the approach converted residual chlorine from an initial mixture of two species (hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ion), to one species (hypochlorous acid). Chlorine detection was shown in water samples using this exploratory method, resulting in a two-fold increase in signal response, compared to measurements without pH control. Finally, tap water samples were measured using the in-situ pH control method and the results showed excellent correlation (within experimental error) with a commercial instrument, demonstrating the efficacy of the developed technique. This work establishes the possibility of deploying an electrochemical based reagent-free, in-line chlorine sensor required for water distribution networks.