Clark Electrode for Dissolved Oxygen

In amperometry we apply a constant potential to the working electrode and measure current as a function of time. Because we do not vary the potential, amperometry does not result in a voltammogram.

One important application of amperometry is in the construction of chemical sensors. One of the first amperometric sensors was developed in 1956 by L. C. Clark to measure dissolved O2 in blood. As illustrated here, the sensor’s design  is similar to potentiometric membrane electrodes. A thin, gas-permeable membrane is stretched across the end of the sensor and is separated from the working electrode and the counter electrode by a thin solution of KCl. The working electrode is a Pt disk cathode, and a Ag ring anode serves as the counter electrode.


Although several gases can diffuse across the membrane, including O2, N2, and CO2, only oxygen undergoes reduction at the cathode, with its concentration at the electrode’s surface quickly reaching zero. The concentration of O2 at the membrane’s inner surface is fixed by its diffusion through the membrane, creating a diffusion profile similar to that resulting from stirring a solution. The result is a steady-state current proportional to the concentration of dissolved oxygen.

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