Six factors to consider before buying a potentiostat

An electrochemist typically spends many months together with a potentiostat to get research done. The potentiostat’s performance should not limit the results and the software should be user friendly and easy to use. Here are six factors to consider before buying a potentiostat. 1. How many channels do I need? How many measurements need to…

An electrochemist typically spends many months together with a potentiostat to get research done. The potentiostat’s performance should not limit the results and the software should be user friendly and easy to use. Here are six factors to consider before buying a potentiostat.

1. How many channels do I need?

How many measurements need to be performed at the same time? Can these experiments be measured one-by-one, or at the same time? Most potentiostats have one channel, if you need more channels, you can either get a multiplexer or a multichannel device. If you need for example to measure 10 different cells at the exact same point in time, you will need 10 independent potentiostat channels. 

2. What is the potentiostat used for?

Is the potentiostat to be used for research in a laboratory, or for an application in the field?

A research potentiostat needs to support a wide range of techniques to cover for all possible research needs. If the potentiostat will be embedded into a product, the specific needs for this product application and the market-potential, define which potentiostat you need.

3. What are the main technical requirements?

  • Which electrochemical techniques do you want to use? Is Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) needed? Use the cross-reference technique list if you think there are multiple names for the same techniques. 
  • What will you measure and with which setup? If you measure using a solution on a screen-printed electrode, you can expect low currents of microamperes, and a voltage of up to 1.5 V where water splitting occurs. With classical electrodes and a glass cell you enter the range of multiple volts and milliamps. If you measure batteries, you need even more.
  • What is the maximum voltage you need to apply? And what about the maximum cell potential? If not sure, choose a wide range of voltages, from -10 to + 10V.
  • What is the minimum and maximum current you need to measure? If you are not measuring batteries, a maximum current of 10 mA is sufficient for most applications.
  • How accurate should the measurements be? Is 0.5% enough, or should it be 0.1% accurate? This requirement also depends on where the measurements are performed. Laboratory measurements often have higher requirements compared to measurements that are done in the field where more noise is a fact of life.

4. Portability

Would you like to perform measurements wirelessly, like in a glove box, galvanically isolated or outside? If so, Bluetooth and a battery is something you need. 

Any size or weight limitations? Does the potentiostat need to be fit into a certain space, or be carried around like a wearable?

5. Auxiliary devices

Sometimes an external device needs to be connected to your potentiostat, like a stirrer, or a temperature sensor. If so, you want to look for a potentiostat with an auxiliary port. Accessories are often made for a certain potentiostat brand only, so it is handy to order accessories together with your potentiostat. This way you’ll get immediate feedback from PalmSens if you choose accessories that are not compatible with each other.

6. Budget

What you want is often limited by what is affordable. Sort your requirements from most important to least important and look for a potentiostat that has the closest match.