Are You in the Market for a Refractometer?

A refractometer is an optical instrument that is used to determine a concentration of a particular substance within a given solution. Continue on to get the results of our refractometers survey!

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A refractometer is an optical instrument that is used to determine a concentration of a particular substance within a given solution. The measure of how much the speed of light is reduced when traveling through a substance such as a gas, solid, or solution is referred to as the refractive index (RI). On obtaining the index, you can calculate different properties of the element, such as the concentration of blood protein, sugar content or salinity.

There is an angle of light at which refraction no longer occurs; the light beam instead is reflected back into the original material. This is called the critical angle. Critical angle is the result of light interfacing at two mediums.

It is equally important to note that the critical angle and refractive index are both closely related to the temperature of the liquid. The refractive index of a liquid at 20°C will be different from the refractive index of the same liquid, at the same concentration, when the liquid is heated to 90°C. Accurate temperatures for the process to be measured are therefore necessary for achieving an accurate measurement.

Refractometers have become fairly common over the past few decades in various industries: water treatment, chemistry, biology, foods, beverages, brewing and viticulture, paints, lubricants, personal care products, pharmaceuticals and many others.

Survey respondents’ primary applications for refractometers:

Pharmacy, Medicine, Biotechnology

21%

Food and Beverage

20%

Chemical Industry

13%

Education, Research

13%

Environmental

5%

Fragrance, Cosmetics, Personal Care

3%

Petroleum

3%

Minerals, Mining, Raw Materials

2%

Other

19%

There are currently four types of refractometers:

  • Traditional manual handheld devices are widely used by respondents
  • Digital handheld devices are used by 11 percent of the respondents, but their compact size, excellent water-resistant properties, tolerance for extremely high temperatures and almost instant measurements make them one of the fastest-growing devices
  • Laboratory or Abbe refractometers are benchtop devices used for solids and special fibers because they offer a much wider range and higher accuracy than that of handheld refractometers
  • Inline process refractometers are designed for the continuous measurement of a fluid flowing through a pipe or inside a tank

Types of refractometers respondents are using:

Manual Portable

39%

Digital Benchtop

26%

Abbe (manual) Benchtop

22%

Digital Portable

11%

Other

2%

In purchasing a refractometer, lab professionals need to know:

  • The range of readings (highest to lowest), to make sure it will suit their purpose.
  • The ease with which the refractometer can be read and understood.
  • The calibration temperature of the refractometer.
  • How easy it is to calibrate. Must you purchase a calibration liquid, or can you calibrate with distilled water? Does it calibrate with a set screw or a dial or knob?
  • How easy it is to clean

Product performance was selected by 100% of the respondents as an important feature in the decision-making process when purchasing a new refractometer.

Calibration Solutions

44%

Printer

28%

Automation

19%

Other

9%

Refractometers must be properly maintained for accurate readings. Respondents’ annual budgets for parts, maintenance, service and repairs:

$100 - $999

38%

$1,000 - $1,999

11%

$2,000 - $3,999

5%

$4,000+

18%

Don’t know

28%

Completed Surveys: 334

Categories: Surveys

Published In

Scientists & The Social Media Magazine Issue Cover
Scientists & The Social Media

Published: April 1, 2011

Cover Story

Scientists & the Social Media

Laboratories are at the forefront of research and analysis. But when it comes to communication, they are followers rather than leaders and can be very slow to adopt innovations.