# White Paper. Calculation of Measurement Uncertainty An Example for Titration

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1 Calculation of Measurement Uncertainty An Example for Titration Measurement results must encompass statistic evaluation and uncertainty estimation to comply with quality standards and to be complete. Strictly speaking, the result of a chemical analysis is meaningless without an indication of the uncertainty involved in its measurement. A realistic estimate of measurement uncertainty is therefore crucial for achieving analytical quality in the laboratory. This text explains how this parameter is estimated for a typical titration. The example chosen was the determination of the concentration of a freshly prepared solution of sodium hydroxide using potassium hydrogen phthalate as the primary standard. Content 1. Introduction 2 2. The Four Main Steps Step 1 Specifying the Measurand Step 2 Identifying all the Relevant Sources of Uncertainty Step 3 Quantifying the Different Sources of Uncertainty Step 4 Calculating Measurement Uncertainty 8 3. Conclusions Further Information References and Notes 11

2 1. Introduction Many important decisions are nowadays based on the results of chemical analyses. For example, the results are used to determine the yield in production processes, to check materials with regard to specifications (i.e. quality control QC), or to evaluate compliance with a statutory limit. Such decisions often involve large sums of money. This applies especially to pharmaceutical, food & beverage, cosmetic and chemical companies due to tight regulations. However, other industries are concerned as well. For this reason, laboratories that supply such analytical chemical results must be able to ensure that they provide adequate quality assurance measures. These measures include validated analytical procedures, internal quality assurance procedures, participation in interlaboratory comparison, accreditation according to ISO/IEC/EN (2005), the medical technical field ISO ( ) and the traceability of measurement results. The aim of all these activities is to document the quality of the analytical results by providing a value for their trustworthiness and reliability. A very useful and widely accepted concept is the uncertainty of measurement (measurement uncertainty or simply uncertainty). This is defined as a parameter associated with the result of a measurement, which characterizes the range of values within which the quantity being measured (the measurand) is expected to lie with a stated level of confidence. Although measurement uncertainty has long been recognized as a concept in analytical chemistry, it was the publication of the Guide to the Expression of Uncertainty in Measurement (GUM) [1] in 1993, which first formally established general rules for evaluating and expressing uncertainty in measurement. Another seven years passed before the Eurachem/CITAC Guide entitled Quantifying Uncertainty in Analytical Measurement (QUAM) [2] appeared with procedures of a more practical nature and more suitable for analytical chemistry. The following text describes how this concept is applied in practice using a commonly performed titration as an example. 2

3 2. The Four Main Steps The procedure for calculating the measurement uncertainty of results determined in a chemical analysis consists of the following four steps: Step 1: Specifying the measurand Step 2: Identifying all the relevant sources of uncertainty Step 3: Quantifying the different uncertainty components Step 4: Calculating the combined measurement uncertainty The implementation of these four steps in practice for a titration is shown for the determination of the concentration of a freshly prepared CO2-free solution of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) using potassium hydrogen phthalate (KHP) as the primary standard. The NaOH concentration is about 0.1 mol/l. This is calculated from the consumption up to the equivalence point of the potentiometric titration curve. 2.1 Step 1 Specifying the Measurand The aim of this first step is to describe the titration procedure as it is performed in the laboratory. This information is already available in part in standard operating procedures (SOPs). They describe the individual steps of the analytical procedures and the equation of the measurand with all variables and parameters from which it directly depends, such as the consumption of NaOH up to the equivalence point. Titration procedure The titration procedure consists of the following stages (Fig. 1): 1. The KHP is dried according to the instructions of the supplier and a sample weighed out on an analytical balance with a resolution of 0.1 mg. 2. A fresh solution of approximately 0.1 mol/l NaOH is prepared, taking all measures necessary to ensure that the solution is free of CO2. 3. The weighed sample of KHP is dissolved in about 50 ml deionized water and then titrated with the NaOH solution. The consumption of sodium hydroxide is determined up to the equivalence point of the potentiometric titration curve recorded by the titrator. Weighing KHP Preparing NaOH Titration Equation of the measurand The equation of the measurand corresponding to the concentration of a freshly prepared sodium hydroxide solution is as follows: Result Figure 1: The different stages of the titration procedure. CNaOH = 10 pkhp mkhp / VEQ MKHP CNaOH: Measurand: concentration of the sodium hydroxide (NaOH) mol/l pkhp: Purity of the KHP standard [3] % mkhp: Sample mass of the KHP standard g VEQ: Consumption of NaOH up to the equivalence point ml MKHP: Molar mass of the KHP standard g/mol 3

4 2.2 Step 2 Identifying all the Relevant Sources of Uncertainty The aim of the second step is to identify all the major sources of uncertainty and to understand their effect on the uncertainty of measurement of the measurand. This has been shown to be one of the most difficult steps in evaluating the uncertainty of a measurement result. On the one hand, there is a risk of neglecting important sources of uncertainty and on the other hand of double-counting other influences. The use of a cause and effect diagram is a good way to avoid this. It has proven itself in practice. The first step in preparing the diagram is to draw the four parameters of the equation of the measurand as the main branches. p (KHP) m (KHP) Afterward, each step of the analytical procedure is examined more closely and any further influence factors on a parameter or the measurand are entered in the diagram. This is carried out working outward along each branch until the influences are so unimportant that their effect on the result and its uncertainty are negligible [4] (Fig. 3). VEQ M (KHP) c (NaOH) Figure 2: Cause and effect diagram with the four main branches: purity, sample mass and molar mass of the KHP standard, and the consumption of NaOH up to the equivalence point. Purity of the KHP primary standard (pkhp) The purity of the KHP primary standard is quoted in the supplier s catalog to be within the limits of 99.9% and 100.1%. There are no further sources of un certainty if the primary standard is dried according to the supplier s specifications. Sample mass of the primary standard KHP (mkhp) The mass of the KHP standard is determined by difference weighing. The empty beaker is first placed on the balance to determine its tare weight. The primary standard is then added to the beaker and then the gross weight measured. For both these measurements, the possible difference between the mass recorded by the balance and the actual mass on the balance pan must be taken into account as a source of uncertainty. This difference is called the linearity by the manufacturer. For the difference weighing only one repeatability can be determined. These three influence factors are entered as sources of uncertainty in the cause and effect diagram. EQP determination p (KHP) Linearity tare VEQ Bias m (KHP) Calibration Temperature Linearity gross M (KHP) c(naoh) Figure 3: Cause and effect diagram showing all the relevant sources of uncertainty. 4

5 Molar mass of the KHP primary standard (MKHP) The uncertainty in the molar mass of KHP can be determined by combining the uncertainty in the atomic masses of its constituent elements. This uncertainty contribution is negligible in comparison to all other sources of uncertainty and will not be further discussed. [5] Consumption of NaOH up to the equivalence point (VEQ) The sources of uncertainty for the consumption of NaOH up to the equivalence point can be divided into two groups. The first group comprises the influence factors that have to do with the volumetric addition of the NaOH solution. It includes the calibration of the piston burette, the repeatability of the delivered volume and the influence of the difference between the temperature in the laboratory and the temperature at which the piston burette was calibrated. The second group has to do with the possibility of a systematic difference or bias in the determination of the equivalence point by the titrator and its repeatability. Combining the individual repeatability contributions Finally, the cause and effect diagram is examined to identify influence factors that can be combined to a new source of uncertainty. In this example, there are only the repeatability contributions of the different parameters. The contributions are combined to one repeatability contribution for the overall titration and entered as a new main branch in the diagram (Fig. 4). p (KHP) m (KHP) Linearity tare Linearity gross Calibration c (NaOH) EQP determination Temperature VEQ M (KHP) Bias Figure 4: Cause and effect diagram after combining all the repeatability contributions to the variation of the overall titration procedure. 5

6 2.3 Step 3 Quantifying the Different Sources of Uncertainty In step 3 of the calculation of the measurement uncertainty, each individual source of uncertainty entered in the cause and error diagram is quantified and converted to a standard deviation. of titration (rep) The contribution for the repeatability of the titration is usually examined in detail when the analytical procedure is developed and is determined when the procedure is validated. In this example, it amounts to 0.12%. rep = 0.12% Purity of the KHP standard (pkhp) The supplier of the KHP quotes the purity of the standard after drying as 100% ± 0.1%. Since no further details are given by the supplier, the purity distribution is best described by a rectangular distribution. The standard deviation is given by: u(p KHP ) = 0.1% / 3 = 0.058% Sample mass of the KHP standard (mkhp) The calibration certificate of the XP205DR analytical balance used in these experiments quotes a linearity of 0.15 mg over the entire weighing range. This source of uncertainty is best modeled using a rectangular distribution function. The standard uncertainty contribution for the sample mass of the KHP is made up of the standard deviations for the linearity of the two weighing operations, one for the empty beaker (tare) and one for the beaker plus the standard (gross). u(m KHP ) = (0.15 mg / 3) 2 + (0.15 mg / 3) 2 = mg Consumption of NaOH up to the equivalence point (VEQ) The uncertainty of the consumption of NaOH is made up of the following contributions: a) Calibration The limits of accuracy for a delivered volume of water from a 20-mL burette is ±0.04 ml over the entire working range. Since the accuracy of piston burettes is continuously monitored in production, a triangular distribution is recommended. The standard deviation is then calculated as follows: u(veq Cal ) = 0.04 ml / 6 = ml 6

7 b) Temperature The international standard is to quote the calibration of volume measuring equipment at 20 C. Since the temperature in the laboratory is usually not 20 C when titration is performed, the uncertainty due to difference in temperature between that in the laboratory and the calibration temperature must be taken into account. The formula only takes the volume expansion of the liquid (aqueous solution) into account because this is much greater than the expansion of solids: u(veq Temp ) = 19 ml C -1 3 C / 3 = ml c) Bias The titration is performed in the beaker under a layer of a protective gas such as argon in order to exclude any bias due to the absorption of CO2 by solutions. The principle here is that it is better to prevent bias rather than to correct for a bias. In addition, quality assurance measures such as regular maintenance and the checking of ph sensors ensure that the titration is performed according to the criteria specified in the validation and hence without bias. Finally, the two standard uncertainties for the calibration and the temperature difference are combined according to the principles of uncertainty propagation. u(veq) = u(veq Cal ) 2 + u(veq Temp ) 2 = (0.016 ml) 2 + (0.007 ml) 2 = ml 7

8 2.4 Step 4 Calculating Measurement Uncertainty For the final calculation of the measurement uncertainty, it is advisable to first summarize the different parameters of the equation of the measurand in a table (Table 1): The concentration of NaOH (measurand) is calculated using the values from the table: Parameter Description Value u(x) u(x)/x rep % pkhp Purity KHP 100.0% 0.058% mkhp Sample mass KHP g g MKHP Molar mass KHP g/mol g/mol VEQ Consumption NaOH ml ml Table 1: The parameters of the equation of the measurand. c NaOH = 10 p KHP m KHP / M KHP VEQ = / = mol/l The combined uncertainty for this value is then calculated using the principles of uncertainty propagation (see Formula 1). The percentage contributions of the different parameters of the equation of the measurand to the combined uncertainty are shown in Figure 5. The diagram also shows which contributions are greatest and hence indicates where the titration procedure could be improved. To compare the result of a titration with another result or to check the compliance against a limit, the expanded measurement uncertainty is usually calculated in addition to the combined standard uncertainty. This is done by multiplying the combined uncertainty by a coverage factor of 2 (k=2), in which case the confidence interval [6] is then 95.5 %. u c (c NaOH ) = c NaOH = mol/l = mol/l Combined uncertainty Formula: u (c NaOH ) = rep 2 + u(p KHP) 2 u(m + KHP ) 2 u(m + KHP ) 2 u(veq) 2 + c NaOH p KHP m KHP M KHP VEQ Result: u (c NaOH ) c NaOH Expanded uncertainty Valid for confidence interval of 95.5 %: U (c NaOH ) = k u c = = = p (KHP) m (KHP) M (KHP) VEQ Total 0% 4% 14% 23% 59% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Figure 5: Percentage contributions of the individual parameters of the equation of the measurand to the combined measurement uncertainty. Formula: 100% Result: U (c NaOH ) = mol/l = mol/l 8

9 d(table vinegar) Calibration Temperature V (Table vinegar) Calibration Temperature Displacement Volume R 1 Temperature Calibration EQPdetermination Bias VEQ TITER (NaOH) M (CH 3 COOH) Figure 6: Cause and effect diagram of acidity determination in vinegar VEQ V (table vinegar) d (table vinegar) Titer(NaOH) 9% 1% 17% 6% 67% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Figure 7: Acidity determination in vinegar: Assessment of all uncertainty factors Figure 8: Example of a modern autotitrator with color touch screen, 3 burettes for titration and dispensing, overhead propeller stirrer and electrode: Titration Excellence T70 9

10 3. Conclusions To evaluate the titration results, the measurement uncertainty and thus the confidence interval must be known. Only when this information is available can one decide whether the titration results obtained in another laboratory for the same samples lead to the same conclusions. Evaluating the titration results For this reason, calculation of measurement uncertainty is of the utmost importance in many widely different fields of analytical chemistry ranging from production control to forensic investigations: Laboratories in the food and beverage industry Laboratories in pharmaceutical chemistry Medical analytical laboratories Forensic laboratories Laboratories for doping analysis and many others D Furthermore, laboratories that are accredited according to ISO/IEC/ EN/DIN (2005) must be able to estimate measurement uncertainties for all their analytical procedures. A B C Limit This introductory example of a titration illustrates how the measurement uncertainty of a titration result is estimated. It serves as a simple introduction and by no means covers this extremely wide and dynamic topic. The aim was rather to present some basic concepts and explain important points using a practical titration procedure as an example. For this reason, the article makes no reference to important matters such as the influence of sampling or sample preparation, nor does it mention more complex titration methods such as back titration. A B Figure 9: The measurement uncertainty enables one to evaluate the titration results. Result A is clearly below and Result D clearly above the limit. Results B and C are unclear and require individual evaluation. C D Limit 10

11 4. Further Information Access more knowhow and information on Application Database We offer comprehensive application support. For titration, the application chemists of the Analytical Chemistry market support group have prepared more than 500 of ready-made titration applications for use with the wide range of titrators. Applications are also available for other analytical methods. These proven and well-tested applications will help you to get accurate results quickly. Our online search engines allow you to search through the database. Titration applications Thermal analysis applications On-demand Webinar Our web-based seminars (webinars) give you the opportunity to receive specific and relevant information concerning applications, measurement technologies and our products. Live webinars offer the added benefit of allowing you to ask questions and discuss points of interest with specialists and other participants. Find webinars here Lab Library Take a look at our Lab Library a one-stop portal to access knowledge resources such as webinars, guides, tips and tricks, applications, product catalogs and more. Go to 5. References and Notes [1] Evaluation of measurement data Guide to the Expression of Uncertainty in Measurement (GUM); JCGM 100:2008 (GUM 1993 & 95 with minor corrections) [2] Eurachem/CITAC Guide CG 4: "Quantifying Uncertainty in Analytical Measurement (QUAM)" 2nd Edition, 2002; [3] The purity of the potassium hydrogen phthalate refers to its functional composition as a primary standard and not to the purity of the substance as for example in HPLC. Here we mean the number of free acidic protons in relation to the overall number of molecules of KHP. Purities can therefore be >100%. [4] S.L.R. Ellison, V.J. Barwick Accred. Qual. Assur. 3, [5] A detailed discussion of the calculation of the combined standard uncertainty for the molar mass of a primary standard can be found in the second example of the QUAM publication. [6] 95.45% of all measured values of a normal distribution (Gaussian) are found within the interval of ± 2s from the mean value. (s = standard deviation) 11

12 Good Measuring Practices Five Steps to Improved Measuring Results The five steps of all Good Measuring Practices guidelines start with an evaluation of the measuring needs of your processes and their associated risks. With this information, Good Measuring Practices provide straight forward recommendations for selecting, installing, calibrating and operating laboratory equipment and devices. Guaranteed quality Compliance with regulations, secure audits Increased productivity, reduced costs Professional qualification and training 5 Routine Operation 1 Evaluation Good Titration Practice Dependable titration in practice reliable results with GTP. 4 Calibration / Qualification Good Measuring Practices 3 Installation / Training 2 Selection GTP reduces the risks associated with titration and facilitates Compliance with regulations Preservation of the accuracy and precision of results Increased productivity and reduced costs Professional qualification and training Learn more about Good Measuring Practices program The Good Measuring Practices cover also weighing, pipetting, thermal analysis as well as measurements of density, refractive index, melting point, dropping point and electrochemical parameters. For more information Mettler-Toledo AG CH-8606 Greifensee, Switzerland Tel Subject to technical changes 10/2014 Mettler-Toledo AG Global MarCom / Lab Division Marketing, Switzerland

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