Electrochemical Sample Matrix Elimination for Trace-Level Potentiometric Detection with Polymeric Membrane Ion-Selective Electrodes
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Potentiometric sensors are today sufficiently well understood and optimized to reach ultratrace level (subnanomolar) detection limits for numerous ions. In many cases of practical relevance, however, a high electrolyte background hampers the attainable detection limits. A particularly difficult sample matrix for potentiometric detection is seawater, where the high saline concentration forms a major interfering background and reduces the activity of most trace metals by complexation. This paper describes for the first time a hyphenated system for the online electrochemically modulated preconcentration and matrix elimination of trace metals, combined with a downstream potentiometric detection with solid contact polymeric membrane ion-selective microelectrodes. Following the preconcentration at the bismuth-coated electrode, the deposited metals are oxidized and released to a medium favorable to potentiometric detection, in this case calcium nitrate. Matrix interferences arising from the saline sample medium are thus circumvented. This concept is successfully evaluated with cadmium as a model trace element and offers potentiometric detection down to low parts per billion levels in samples containing 0.5 M NaCl background electrolyte.
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