Limits of the Linear Accumulation Regime of DGT Sensors
Uribe Kaffure, Ramiro
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A key question for the practical application of DGT (Diffusive Gradients in Thin films) as dynamic sensors in the environmental monitoring of trace metals is the influence of pH and dissolved ligands over the linear accumulation regime. Protons compete with metal ions for the binding to the DGT resin sites at relatively low pH, whereas high affinity dissolved ligands compete with resin sites for the binding of metals. Any of the two phenomena can lead to a departure from the linear accumulation regime and an underestimation of the actual species concentration in solution. These effects are studied here through numerical simulation of the diffusion-reaction processes in both gel and resin domains using a detailed chemical model of metal ions and protons interacting with resin sites. Results were tested successfully against experimental data of the Cd-NTA representative system. Charts to delimitate the range of experimental conditions (pH, ligand concentration and strength) where the linear accumulation regime prevails, can be helpful for designing sampling strategies in field conditions. For example, it is foreseen that perturbations of linear regime within 10 h of deployment are negligible above pH 5 and weak complexation (log K' < 0) or above pH 7 and strong complexation (log K' < 3), where K' is the effective stability constant. These plots can also be approximately used for partially labile systems whenever the time is replaced with the product lability degree times t.