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Automation Matters to Some, and Rugged Reliability Matter to Everyone

At United Technologies Research Center in East Hartford, Connecticut, staff research engineer Weina Li and her colleagues developed a vanadium flow battery. “It provides ten times higher power density than previous cells,” says Li.

Mike May, PhD

Mike May is a freelance writer and editor living in Texas.

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This technology is very scalable—capable of providing backup power for a house or a larger building. To better control and make use of these systems, Li and her colleagues rely on potentiometric titration to measure a battery’s state of charge. “Newer titrators are much better than old versions,” says Li, “because they offer automatic titrations with accurate detection of end points.” She adds, “I did lots of titrations by hand, and that is very time consuming.”

At JM Science in Grand Island, New York, John MacFarlane in applications support points out other advances in today’s titrators. “Most of the changes are improvements in the end-user interface,” MacFarlane says. “Software packages make it possible to connect a titrator to a network, for example.” He adds, “New software can also include enhanced statistical packages.”

The desired features depend on the application. As Hans-Jürgen Bigus, CEO of Hirschmann Laborgeräte in Germany, says, “Many users tell me, if they have a big number of probes to analyze, they want to have a fully automatic titrator, or if they have fewer probes, they want to have a titrator that is very easy to use.” Being easy to use means being simple to take apart and clean, for example. Some users, Bigus says, also want to use small volumes of consumables to save money.

Ensuring long life

Some devices can keep titrating for years. As MacFarlane says, “It’s not uncommon for us to get calls or have customers come to our booth at trade shows [telling us] they have one of our titrators that’s 15 years old and still running.” He adds, “We’ll still support older units when we can, but the electronic boards can be an issue, because some components are no longer manufactured.” His company won’t sell a customer a used board, because they can’t guarantee it.

To build a titrator that’s a sound investment, MacFarlane says, “We emphasize ruggedness, reliability, and reasonable cost. These things really make sure that a customer gets good value for the money spent.”

For a lab manager shopping for a new titrator, Bigus says, “I think the first step should be to know how many probes with which type of media will be analyzed. So you can very easily calculate whether it makes sense to work with a glass burette at about $100, a digital titrator at about $1,000, or an automatic titrating system at more than $10,000.”

Beyond the upfront cost, though, MacFarlane encourages customers to consider the cost of replacement parts and consumables. “It’s like the old printers that cost $49 but replacing the ink cost $98,” he says. “You can go to our website and see the cost of consumables.”

It pays to check the entire lifetime cost of a itrator and its reputation in the field before making a new purchase.

For additional resources on titrators, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit