A Deep Dive into Handheld Potentiostats / Galvanostats

Understanding the Crucial Technical Specifications of portable devices
November 2, 2023 by
Survey and Foreee Technologies SLL, Antonio Ruesca

Introduction

Handheld potentiostats have revolutionized the world of electrochemistry, making it possible to perform real-time, on-the-go electrochemical measurements. Whether you're a researcher, an engineer, or an enthusiast of electrochemistry, choosing the right handheld potentiostat is crucial. 

To help you make an informed decision, we'll compare some of the key technical specifications of these portable electrochemical instruments and highlight the importance of each specification.

Some key technical specifications definitions

Voltage range and voltage compliance are essential parameters that determine the instrument's capabilities and suitability for various electrochemical experiments. Selecting a potentiostat with an appropriate voltage range and sufficient voltage compliance is essential to ensure that it can effectively control the potential of the working electrode while conducting a wide range of electrochemical experiments. The choice of these parameters should align with the specific electrochemical processes and potential ranges of interest to researchers and scientists.

Here's why these factors are important:

  • Voltage Range: The voltage range of a potentiostat refers to the range of voltages it can apply to the working electrode in an electrochemical cell. This is critical because different electrochemical processes require different voltage levels to drive the desired reactions. A potentiostat with a broad voltage range can be used for a wide range of experiments, including those that involve electrochemical processes with high or low potentials. In contrast, a potentiostat with a limited voltage range may be suitable for specific applications but unsuitable for others. For example, it might be well-suited for standard electrochemical experiments but not for experiments involving extreme potential values. Choosing a potentiostat with an appropriate voltage range is crucial to ensure that it can deliver the necessary voltage to study the specific electrochemical system of interest.
  • Voltage Compliance: Voltage compliance is the maximum allowable output voltage that the potentiostat can provide while maintaining control of the working electrode's potential. It is a safety feature to prevent damaging the working electrode or the cell. When an electrochemical reaction occurs, the potential at the working electrode may shift. If the potentiostat's voltage output exceeds its compliance limit, it can result in an uncontrolled potential and, in some cases, damage the electrode. Voltage compliance is particularly important when dealing with systems that can exhibit high current flow, as this can lead to significant potential shifts if not controlled properly. Potentiostats with higher voltage compliance are more versatile and can be used for a broader range of experiments, as they can handle larger current responses without losing control over the potential.

Potentiostats and galvanostats are both instruments used in electrochemical research and experimentation, and they are designed to control and measure different parameters in electrochemical cells. The number of current ranges on potentiostat mode and the number of potential ranges on galvanostatic mode are essential to provide researchers with the flexibility, precision, and versatility needed to conduct a wide range of electrochemical experiments accurately. These features allow for the optimization of measurement conditions, making it possible to study various electrochemical phenomena under different experimental setups. A higher number of current ranges on a potentiostats and voltage ranges on galvanostats will provide the following benefits:

  • Higher precision and sensitivity: Different electrochemical experiments may require a wide range of current or potential values, from microamperes (µA) to milliamperes (mA) or  higher. The availability of multiple current/potential ranges allows researchers to select the most appropriate range for their specific experiment, ensuring precise and accurate measurements.
  • Wider Dynamic Range: Some electrochemical processes may involve both rapid changes in current/voltage and slower, more stable currents/voltages. By offering multiple ranges, a potentiostat/galvanostat can effectively handle a broad dynamic range of current/potential values, enabling the study of a wide range of electrochemical phenomena.
  • Higher resolution: Different ranges often come with different levels of resolution. Having a range with a higher resolution is essential when studying small currents/voltages, as it allows for more accurate measurements and data analysis.
  • Versatility: Electrochemical systems can exhibit a wide range of voltage levels during various experiments. The availability of multiple potential ranges allows researchers to adapt the galvanostat to different experimental conditions and ensure that they can accurately measure potential changes across a wide voltage range.
  • Overpotential Control: In some electrochemical studies, it is critical to precisely control the overpotential (the difference between the applied potential and the electrode potential). Multiple potential ranges help researchers achieve this control while monitoring the effects on the electrochemical system.
  • Avoiding Saturation: When working with electrochemical cells, it's crucial to avoid saturating the potential measurement. By selecting the appropriate potential range, researchers can ensure that the instrument's measurement capability matches the expected potential values without exceeding its limits.


The resolution in a potentiostat determines the sensitivity and precision with which the instrument can measure and control the electrical potential (voltage) applied to an electrochemical system. It is crucial for accurate measurement and control of electrochemical parameters. It affects the instrument's ability to provide precise data, detect small signals, and ensure the reliability of experimental results in various electrochemical applications. Researchers and analysts should select a potentiostat with an appropriate resolution that matches the sensitivity and precision needed for their specific research goals:

  • Measurement Accuracy: Resolution affects the ability of the potentiostat to accurately measure the potential difference (voltage) between the working electrode and the reference electrode. Higher resolution allows for more precise voltage measurements, reducing the risk of errors in your electrochemical experiments.
  • Control Precision: In potentiostatic control, the potentiostat maintains a constant voltage between the working and reference electrodes. The resolution determines how finely you can control this voltage. Higher resolution enables finer and more precise control of the electrochemical system, which is critical for maintaining experimental conditions and achieving accurate results.
  • Detection of Small Signals: Some electrochemical processes generate small signals that are of great interest to researchers. These could be related to trace analytes, low-concentration species, or subtle changes in electrochemical behavior. A potentiostat with high resolution can detect and measure these small signals that a lower-resolution instrument might miss.
  • Electrochemical Kinetics: When studying reaction kinetics, it's crucial to precisely measure the current response to changes in potential. Higher resolution allows you to detect and analyze subtle changes in current that can provide insights into reaction mechanisms and rates.
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: A higher resolution potentiostat can distinguish the signal of interest from background noise more effectively. This is particularly important when working with weak electrochemical signals or in noisy environments.
  • Quantitative Analysis: For quantitative analysis in electrochemistry, it's essential to have accurate and precise data. The resolution of the potentiostat plays a significant role in obtaining reliable data for quantitative analysis, such as determining reaction kinetics or concentrations of electroactive species.

Accuracy is crucial for obtaining reliable, reproducible, and meaningful results in electrochemical experiments, as well as for quality control and safety in various applications. Researchers, engineers, and scientists rely on accurate potentiostats to advance their understanding of electrochemical processes and optimize industrial processes. is critically important in a potentiostat for several reasons:

  • Precise Control of Electrochemical Experiments: Potentiostats are commonly used in electrochemical experiments to control the voltage (potential) applied to an electrode and measure the resulting current. Accurate control of the applied potential is essential for the success of these experiments. Inaccurate voltage control can lead to unreliable data and misinterpretation of results.
  • Reliable Data Collection: Accurate measurement of current is crucial for obtaining reliable electrochemical data. Inaccuracies in current measurements can lead to incorrect analysis and conclusions. Researchers rely on the data collected by potentiostats to make informed decisions and draw accurate conclusions about the electrochemical processes under investigation.
  • Calibration and Standardization: Accurate potentiostats are essential for calibration and standardization of electrochemical systems and sensors. Many electrochemical techniques require calibration curves to relate current or potential to analyte concentration. Inaccurate measurements can lead to erroneous calibration curves, affecting the accuracy of analytical results.
  • Reproducibility: Achieving reproducible results in electrochemical experiments is important for scientific research and industrial applications. Potentiostats with high accuracy can help ensure that experiments conducted under similar conditions yield consistent results, which is essential for validating findings and for quality control in industrial processes.

Scan rate, often measured in V/s (volts per second), is the speed at which the potentiostat can change the potential of the working electrode. This specification is especially important in techniques like cyclic voltammetry, where the rate of potential change directly influences the shape and resolution of the resulting voltammograms. 


The scan rate is a key parameter that allows researchers to control the speed at which electrochemical reactions occur. By adjusting the scan rate, you can study reactions at different rates, which is crucial for understanding reaction kinetics and mechanisms. A higher scan rate allows for faster experimentation, making it a crucial factor in time-sensitive applications.

It is a critical parameter in electrochemistry and potentiostat operation for several important reasons:

  1. Kinetic Information: The scan rate influences the rate at which electrochemical reactions occur at the electrode surface. Faster scan rates can reveal kinetic information about the reaction, while slower scan rates may provide insights into the thermodynamics and reaction equilibrium.
  2. Signal Resolution: The scan rate affects the resolution of the electrochemical signals obtained during an experiment. A higher scan rate may lead to sharper peaks in cyclic voltammetry, making it easier to distinguish between different redox processes or components of a mixture.
  3. Evaluation of Electrode Performance: Scan rate is used to assess the performance of electrodes and materials used in electrochemical cells. Different materials may exhibit different electrochemical behavior at varying scan rates, and this information is vital for the development of electrochemical sensors and energy storage devices.
  4. Sensor Applications: In electrochemical sensors, the scan rate can impact the sensitivity and response time of the sensor. Optimizing the scan rate is crucial to ensure accurate and rapid detection of analytes in various samples.
  5. Electrode Material Optimization: Researchers use the scan rate to investigate how different electrode materials behave under different conditions. This is important for selecting the most suitable materials for specific electrochemical applications.
  6. Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS): EIS is a technique used to study the electrical behavior of electrochemical systems as a function of frequency. In EIS experiments, the scan rate can be equivalent to the frequency, and adjusting it is critical for probing different electrochemical processes.
Minimum Interval Time

The minimum interval time directly influences the quality and accuracy of the electrochemical data you obtain. It enables you to capture rapid changes, maintain precise control, and ensure that no important information is missed during your experiments, ultimately leading to more meaningful and reliable results in electrochemistry research and analysis.


  1. Resolution and Data Accuracy: The minimum interval time determines how frequently the potentiostat records data points, which affects the resolution of the experiment. If the interval time is too long, you may miss important changes in the electrochemical behavior. Shorter interval times allow for more data points and better accuracy in capturing rapid changes in the electrochemical system.
  2. Reaction Kinetics: Many electrochemical reactions occur at different rates, and some may be very fast. To accurately study these reactions, you need to set the interval time to be short enough to capture the kinetics of the reaction. The minimum interval time ensures that you don't oversimplify or miss important details in the kinetics of the system.
  3. Control of Electrochemical Processes: When using a potentiostat for experiments like cyclic voltammetry, chronoamperometry, or impedance spectroscopy, precise control over the potential and monitoring of the current response is vital. A short interval time helps maintain tight control over potential and current, which is essential for obtaining reliable and reproducible results.
  4. Signal-to-Noise Ratio: A shorter interval time can help improve the signal-to-noise ratio in your data. By capturing data more frequently, you reduce the impact of noise and obtain cleaner signals, making it easier to analyze and interpret your results.
  5. Detection of Transient Events: Some electrochemical processes involve transient events or phenomena that occur for a brief moment. To detect and characterize these events, you need a short interval time to ensure that they are not missed.
  6. Electrode Stability and Electrolyte Behavior: Electrodes may undergo changes over time, and the behavior of the electrolyte can evolve during an experiment. Short interval times allow you to monitor these changes in real-time and adjust your experimental conditions if needed.
  7. Optimal Experiment Duration: Setting the minimum interval time appropriately can help ensure that your experiments do not take longer than necessary. Longer experiments can lead to electrode degradation or changes in the system that affect the results.

Comparative table of commercially available handheld potentiostat specifications

Conclusion

When comparing handheld potentiostats, it's essential to pay close attention to the technical specifications, as they significantly impact the versatility and suitability of the instrument for your specific electrochemical applications. 

Whether you're investigating energy storage, corrosion, or sensor development, choosing a potentiostat with the right specifications will pave the way for successful and accurate electrochemical research. 

The right potentiostat for you will depend on your research objectives, the range of experiments you plan to conduct, the environments in which you intend to operate and, of course, the budget that you have.  

IVIUM Technologies compactSTAT

And if you need higher resolution, accuracy or FRA/EIS higher than >1MHz you should check the compactSTAT, a unique high end 24bits portable potentiostat.


Discover compactSTAT

Disclaimer: if you think that any important specification is missing that should be there, or the information mentioned is not correct, please contact us at info@sftec.es.

Share this post