Monitoring Industrial Processes through Ammonia Analyzers

 Ammonia is a chemical compound of nitrogen and hydrogen that contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as the precursor to foods and fertilizers. Ammonia is also extensively used in many industries like pharmaceuticals, refrigeration systems, and commercial cleaning products and as an alternative to fossil fuel.  However, ammonia is a toxic gas that requires a hazardous safety permit particularly when transported in large quantities. The hazards of ammonia are dependent upon its concentration which requires the ammonia analyzers to monitor and control industrial processes.

The need for quality analyzers in wastewater treatment facilities

Monitoring ammonia through ammonia analyzers can measure ammonia levels in wastewater treatment and effluent discharges to help ensure that the nutrient levels are sufficient to allow bacteria to break down waste in the treatment process while minimizing the concentrations of ammonia in the final effluent output making it safe for the environment. Additionally, ammonia analyzers are essential to document discharge levels set by regulatory authorities to ensure compliance. For the control of the nitrification and denitrification process in a wastewater treatment plant, ammonia measurement and analysis is a must to optimize their processes.

Online ammonia analyzers

As industries are required to more stringently monitor their wastewater parameters, the demand for online ammonia analyzers has grown to facilitate regulatory compliance. Online ammonia analyzers can better identify and reveal contaminant sources and the necessary process changes. The instruments can operate continuously and calibrate automatically while reducing the need for human intervention. Currently there are 3 online ammonia analyzers available for the measurement of ammonia concentration in a treatment process system. Each technology uses different analytical methods to detect ammonia concentrations.

Types of online ammonia analyzers

  • Colorimetric – these ammonia analyzers use a colorimeter which is a light intensity meter capable of measuring the intensity of light at a specific wavelength. This will measure the color intensity of sample solutions. The color is produced by introducing reagents to the sample and its intensity is proportional to the free ammonia concentration in the sample. The ammonia colorimeter will compare the intensity of two wastewater samples; the first reference sample will be used as basis for comparison with the second test sample.
  • Ion-selective electrode ammonia analyzer – probe-type analyzers that use and ammonia ISE and a reference electrode. The ISE ammonia analyzer feeds sample through a flow cell or sample chamber. Sodium hydroxide is added to the sample to raise its PH to a value greater than 11, to convert all ammonia to free ammonia. The ISE ammonia analyzer probe measures the change in PH of the membranes cap’s ammonium chloride solution that is proportional to the free ammonia concentration in the sample solution.
  • Ultraviolet absorbance spectrophotometer ammonia analyzer – uses an ultraviolet light source to measure the absorbance and/or transmittance of UV light waves passing through a sample. To measure ammonia concentration, a sample is collected and a reagent is added to the sample that acts as a buffer by adjusting PH of the sample to a value greater than 12. Hypochlorite is added to measure ammonia in the sample. 

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