Spectrophotometric measurement of freshwater pH with purified meta-cresol purple and phenol red

Chun Ze Lai, Michael D. DeGrandpre, Brandon D. Wasser, Taymee A. Brandon, Daniel S. Clucas, Emma J. Jaqueth, Zachary D. Benson, Cory M. Beatty, Reggie S. Spaulding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Impurities in indicator salts can significantly bias spectrophotometric pH determinations. In this work, two purified sulfonephthalein indicators, meta-cresol purple (mCP) and phenol red (PR), were tested for analysis of freshwater pH on the free hydrogen ion concentration scale. These two purified indicators were characterized for the first time under low ionic strength conditions, providing their molar absorption coefficients and dissociation constants along with their temperature dependence from 8°C to 30°C. At 25°C, the infinite dilution constants (pKI °) were determined to be 8.6606 and 8.0642 for mCP and PR, respectively. The accuracy and precision of the method, evaluated with a variety of buffers with known pH, were found to be ±0.0014 pH units and ±0.0022 pH units, respectively (n530). The pH values of different freshwater samples were also determined using both indicators. The mCP and PR results were all within ±0.01 pH units of each other with three out of seven pH differences within ±0.001 pH units, indicating the high consistency between these two indicator methods. The work presented here is the first parallel comparison with two purified indicators used to determine pH of the same freshwater samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)864-873
Number of pages10
JournalLimnology and Oceanography: Methods
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


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