Pan-European Network of Fundamental pH Research: UnipHied

Initiated by our group, the pan-European research network of fundamental pH Research UnipHied started in May 2018.

Why is such network needed? As of now, it is not possible to compare pH values of solutions made in different solvents, as every solvent has its own pH scale. This situation is highly unfortunate, since it causes confusion and inaccuracies into many fields, extending far beyond the specific field of acid-base chemistry. Examples are industrial catalytic processes, food chemistry, liquid chromatograpy, etc. The central goal of UnipHied is to overcome this situation by putting the new theoretical concept of the recently introduced unified pHabs scale on a metrologically well-founded basis into practice.

The most important specific objectives of UnipHied are (1) to develop and validate a reliable and universally applicable measurement procedure that enables the measurement of pHabs; (2) to create a reliable method for the experimental or computational evaluation of the liquid junction potential between aqueous and non-aqueous solutions; (3) to develop a coherent and validated suite of calibration standards for standardizing routine measurement systems in terms of pHabs values for a variety of widespread systems (e.g., industrial mixtures, soils/waters, food products, biomaterials).

The first version of the pHabs measurement procedure has been created by Agnes Heering (Suu) in the framework of her PhD thesis. The main experimental difficulty is evaluation of the liquid junction potential (LJP), which will be thoroughly addressed by UnipHied. The first important steps towards this goal have very recently been made and published as two back-to-back papers: Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 2344–2347 and Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 2348–2352
The key achievement described in the papers is finding an ionic liquid, namely [N2225][NTf2], that can be used as salt bridge electrolyte and has such properties that two out of three main sources of LJP are eliminated.

The partners of the UnipHied network are LNE (France, coordinator), BFKH (Hungary), CMI (Czech Republic), DFM (Denmark), IPQ (Portugal), PTB (Germany), SYKE (Finland), TÜBITAK-UME (Turkey), Freiburg University (Germany), ANBSensors (United Kingdom), FCiencias.ID (Portugal), UT (Estonia).

UnipHied is funded from the EMPIR programme (project 17FUN09) co-financed by the Participating States and from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.


Comparative validation of amperometric and optical dissolved oxygen sensors

A comprehensive comparative validation for two different types of dissolved oxygen (DO) analyzers, amperometric and optical, together with estimation of measurement uncertainty is presented in the recently published article I. Helm, G. Karina, L. Jalukse, T. Pagano, I. Leito, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 2018, 190, 313.

A number of performance characteristics were evaluated including drift, intermediate precision, accuracy of temperature compensation, accuracy of reading (under different measurement conditions), linearity, flow dependence of the reading, repeatability (reading stability), and matrix effects of dissolved salts. The matrix effects on readings in real samples were evaluated by analyzing the dependence of the reading on salt concentration (at saturation concentration of DO). The analyzers were also assessed in DO measurements of a number of natural waters. The uncertainty contributions of the main influencing parameters were estimated under different experimental conditions. It was found that the uncertainties of results for both analyzers are quite similar but the contributions of the uncertainty sources are different.

The results imply that the optical analyzer might not be as robust as is commonly assumed, however, it has better reading stability, lower stirring speed dependence, and typically requires less maintenance. On the other hand, the amperometric analyzer has a faster response and wider linear range.

(Photo by Lauri Jalukse: measurements of dissolved oxygen concentration with amperometric and optical analyzers at Jordan spring, Karksi-Nuia, Estonia)


Measurement uncertainty online course (MOOC) 2018 edition successfully finished!

Measurement_Uncertainty_MOOC_Successfully_FinishedOn May 14, 2018 the on-line course (MOOC) Estimation of measurement uncertainty in chemical analysis offered by University of Tartu finished successfully.
Eventually altogether 521 people registered (270 in 2014, 489 in 2015, 757 in 2016, 363 in 2017) from 76 countries (a number of participants joined after the start of the course). 358 participants actually started the course (i.e. tried at least one graded test at least once) and out of them 218 successfully completed the course (141 in 2014, 169 in 2015, 308 in 2016, 148 in 2017). The overall completion rate was 42% (52% in 2014, 34% in 2015, 40% in 2016, 41% in 2017). The completion rate of participants who started the studies was 61% (67% in 2014, 60% in 2015, 67% in 2016, 68% in 2017). The completion rates are nicely consistent over the last years and can be considered very good for a MOOC, especially one that has quite difficult calculation exercises, which need to be done correctly for completing the course.

The participants were very active and asked lots of questions. The questions were often very much to the point and addressed things that are really important to analysts in their everyday work. The course has several forums (general and by topic) and the overall number of posts to them during the course period reached almost 300 (!) (overall number of posts, both from participants and from teachers) and the forums are still active and posts are still coming in.

This active participation made teaching of this MOOC a great experience also for us, the teachers. The discussion threads gave a lot of added value to the course and some of them triggered making important modifications to the course materials, even during the course.

We want to thank all participants for helping to make this course a success!

We plan to repeat this course again in Spring 2019.


Pilleriin, Eliise and Signe at inArt 2018 Conference

On 26-29th March three members of the UT Analytical chemistry groupEliise, Signe and Pilleriin – attended the conference inArt 2018 (3rd International Conference on Innovation in Art Research and Technology). The conference was held in a small, yet beautiful town of Parma in Italy.

The aim of the conference was to bring together chemists, physicists, geologists, art historians, conservators, archaeologists, etc. to create a wide community and a mutual environment for a fruitful discussion. Four days were filled with wide-ranging presentations, museum visits and interesting discussions with other scientist from the same scientific fields. The work of our cultural heritage group was also introduced with both oral and poster presentations.

On the left picture you can see Eliise standing next to her poster about the comparison of derivatization methods for GC-MS analysis of binding materials in oil paints. The results of this work are going to be published soon.

On the right picture is Pilleriin presenting her work on textile dye analysis. This work has already been submitted.


Measurement Uncertainty online course: more than 450 participants from 70 countries!

U_MOOC_Countries_of_Participants_2018On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, the web course Estimation of Measurement Uncertainty in Chemical Analysis was launched the fifth time as a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course)!

Currently, more than 450 participants from 70 countries are registered! As was the case in the previous years, the majority of participants are from analytical laboratories. This once again demonstrates the continuing need for training in measurement uncertainty estimation for practising analytical chemists.

The full course material is accessible from the web page As is usual, some developments and improvements have been made to the course material. in particular, the description of course organisation was improved; more explanations and examples were added on random and systematic effects within short and long-term; the typical requirements for determining repeatability and within-lab reproducibility have been clearly outlined; more explanations on the main principles of modifying a model in a modelling approach have been given, together with an example. Some changes are still in the pipeline.

The course materials include videos, schemes, calculation files and numerous self-tests (among them also full-fledged measurement uncertainty calculation exercises). In order to pass the course, the registered participants have to pass six graded tests and get higher than 50% score from each of them. These tests are available to registered participants via the Moodle e-learning platform.