Sunday, December 9, 2001


Titration is a common laboratory method of quantitative chemical analysis that is used to determine the unknown concentration of a known reactant. Because volume measurements play a key role in titration, it is also known as volumetric analysis. A reagent, called the titrant or titrator, of a known concentration (a standard solution) and volume is used to react with a solution of the analyte or titrand, whose concentration is not known. Using a calibrated burette to add the titrant, it is possible to determine the exact amount that has been consumed when the endpoint is reached. The endpoint is the point at which the titration is complete, as determined by an indicator. This is ideally the same volume as the equivalence point—the volume of added titrant at which the number of moles of titrant is equal to the number of moles of analyte, or some multiple thereof (as in polyprotic acids). In the classic strong acid-strong base titration, the endpoint of a titration is the point at which the pH of the reactant is just about equal to 7, and often when the solution permanently changes color due to an indicator. There are however many different types of titrations.
Many methods can be used to indicate the endpoint of a reaction; titrations often use visual indicators (the reactant mixture changes colour). In simple acid-base titrations a pH indicator may be used, such as phenolphthalein, which becomes pink when a certain pH (about 8.2) is reached or exceeded. Another example is methyl orange, which is red in acids and yellow in alkali solutions.
Not every titration requires an indicator. In some cases, either the reactants or the products are strongly coloured and can serve as the "indicator". For example, an oxidation-reduction titration using potassium permanganate (pink/purple) as the titrant does not require an indicator. When the titrant is reduced, it turns colourless. After the equivalence point, there is excess titrant present. The equivalence point is identified from the first faint pink color that persists in the solution being titrated.
Due to the logarithmic nature of the pH curve, the transitions are, in general, extremely sharp; and, thus, a single drop of titrant just before the endpoint can change the pH significantly—leading to an immediate colour change in the indicator. There is a slight difference between the change in indicator color and the actual equivalence point of the titration. This error is referred to as an indicator error, and it is indeterminate.


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