Conductivity Sensors

Measuring Conductivity

What is Conductivity?

Conductivity is the measurement of the solution or substance’s ability to carry or conduct an electric current. Conductivity sensors are used to measure conductivity in aqueous solutions to determine the purity or impurity of a liquid.

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An electric current will flow through liquids when a voltage difference exists between two points; the presence of ions or charged particles are necessary as they are the “carriers” of the current flowing through the solution. If there are no ions present in the liquid, such as with ultrapure water, then no current can flow and the solution is not conductive.

However, if the water is not ultrapure, then ions are present and electric current can flow through the solution (e.g. brine solution). The same is true for chemical solutions such as HCl.

Selecting Conductivity Sensors

There are two basic sensor styles used for measuring Conductivity: Contacting and Inductive (Toroidal, Electrodeless).


Contacting conductivity sensors are ideal for use in pure and ultrapure water applications. They are highly sensitive to ions present, providing the highest accuracy for low conductivity measurements.

Inductive (Toroidal, Electrodeless)

Inductive conductivity sensors have a wide range capability and are better suited for measurements in dirty, corrosive, or high conductive solutions, requiring less maintenance than contacting sensors in the same environment.


Selecting a Conductivity Sensor

  Pure Water (Low) Conductivity High Pressure/High Temperature High Conductivity Percent Concentration High Fouling/ Dirty Portable Conductivity
Contacting Sensors  
SC42 Large Bore x   x      
SC42 Small Bore x x        
SC4A x          
SX42   x        
SC72           x
Inductive Sensors  
ISC40     x x x  



What is Conductivity?

Conductivity is the measure of a solution's ability to pass or carry an electric current. The term conductivity is derived from Ohm's Law, E=I•R; where Voltage (E) is the product of Current (I) and Resistance (R); Resistance is determined by Voltage/Current. When a voltage is connected across a conductor, a current will flow, which is dependent on the resistance of the conductor.  Conductivity is simply defined as the reciprocal of the resistance of a solution between two electrodes.

How do we measure Conductivity?

There are two basic sensor styles used for measuring Conductivity: Contacting and Inductive (Toroidal, Electrodeless).

When Contacting Sensors are used, the conductivity is measured by applying an alternating electrical current to the sensor electrodes (that together make up the cell constant) immersed in a solution and measuring the resulting voltage. The solution acts as the electrical conductor between the sensor electrodes.

With Inductive (also called Toroidal or Electrodeless), the sensing elements (electrode coils) of an inductive sensor do not come in direct contact with the process. These two matched (identical coils) are encapsulated in PEEK (or Teflon) protecting them from the adverse effects of the process.   

What makes a solution conductive? 

Ions present in the liquid (Na, Ca, Cl, H, OH) are what is responsible for carrying the electric current.

Conductivity is only a quantitative measurement: it responds to all ionic content and cannot distinguish particular conductive materials in the presence of others. Only ionizable materials will contribute to conductivity; materials such as sugars or oils are not conductive.

Conductivity applications cover a wide range from pure water at less than 1x10-7 S/cm to concentrated solutions with values greater than 1 S/cm. Such application examples are WIFI, demineralizer water, RO water, percent concentration, boiler blowdown, and TDS.

In general, the measurement of conductivity is a rapid and inexpensive way of determining the ionic strength of a solution. Conductivity is used to measure the purity of water or the concentration of ionized chemicals in water. It is a nonspecific technique, unable to distinguish between different types of ions, giving instead a reading that is proportional to the combined effect of all the ions present.

The accuracy of the measurement is strongly influenced by temperature variations, polarization effects at the surface of the contacting electrodes, cable capacitances, etc.

Yokogawa has designed a full range of precision sensors and instruments to cope with these measurements, even under extreme conditions.

How do I select the right sensor? 

When selecting a conductivity sensor for an application we need to consider the following:

  • What is the measurement range? (This dictates which cell constant will be required).
  • What is the process temperature? (We have standardized on Pt1000)
  • What is the chemical makeup of the process? (This determines what material of construction we offer to ensure chemical compatibility).

What is a cell constant, and why do we need to be concerned about it?

The cell constant is mathematical value for a "multiplying factor" that is used to determine the measuring range of the sensor. This mathematical value is determined by the geometric design of the cell. It is calculated by dividing the distance (length) between the two measuring plates by the area of the plates (area of the plates is determined by the area of the outside-the area of the inside = area between the electrodes).

The raw conductivity value is then multiplied by the cell constant which is why we see the unit µS (micro siemens)/cm.

Yokogawa offers four cell constants: 0.01, 0.1, 1.0, and 10.0, which provide accurate of the entire Measurement range of 0-2,000,000 µS. These values are known as the nominal cell constant, whereas the printed cell constant on the sensor can vary slightly (you will see 0.0198 instead of 0.02) is the specific cell constant for that sensor. 

One of the problems that occur when an incorrect cell constant is used is Polarization


The first example shows a solution with the correct cell constant where the ions are free to travel from one plate to the other.


The second example shows the same cell constant being used in a highly conductive solution.  When the voltage alternates (switches polarity), the ions cannot freely move to the other plate because the ion density is too high.  This results in fewer ions contacting the correct plate which will result in a false low reading.

However, for the ISC40 Inductive Sensor, there is only one cell factor (constant). It covers the entire conductivity measurement range 0-2,000 S/cm. But on only the low end (below 50µS) does the accuracy of the sensor suffer.



To defray energy costs, many industrial plants have their own boilers to generate steam to produce a portion of their energy needs. In addition to generating power, the steam may also be used directly in plant processes or indirectly via heat exchangers or steam jacketed vessels. 


Heat exchangers are devices that provide the flow of thermal energy between two or more fluids at different temperatures. Heat exchangers are used in a wide variety of applications. These include power production; process, chemical and food industries; electronics; environmental engineering; waste heat recovery; manufacturing industry; and air-conditioning, refrigeration, and space applications.

Application Note

Conductivity measurement can be used as a reliable indicator of the real-time brine concentration. Using an online process analyzer removes the need for timely grab sample analysis. 

Application Note

The term "cooling tower" is used to describe both direct (open circuit) and indirect (closed circuit) heat rejection equipment. Cooling towers are heat-transfer units, used to remove heat from any water-cooled system. The cooled water is then re-circulated (and thus, recycled) back into the system. Since the process water is re-circulated, the mineral concentration increases as a result of the evaporation. (AN10B01B20-01E)

Industry:Refining, Food and Beverage, Power, Oil and Gas, Pulp and Paper, Chemical


Control of sodium chloride (NaCl) concentration at a salt dissolver where solid salt is dissolved in water, is highly important because of the electrolysis efficiency. A conventional way of measuring the concentration of supersaturated NaCl solution had been performed by using non-contact type sensors (e.g., γ-ray density meter) since NaCl, impurities, and precipitates are in the solution.


In a semiconductor plant, a variety of chemicals are used in various manufacturing processes. The chemicals used for specific purposes are produced by diluting raw liquid with demineralized water using in diluting equipment, and the control of the concentration at this point is performed by conductivity measurement. 


There are many points in the processing of edible fats and oils that benefit from the use of analytical measurements. Inductive conductivity, contacting conductivity, gas density, and pH can be utilized to increase the quality of the end product, as well as protecting expensive processes.


Clean-in-place (CIP) is the system designed for automatic cleaning and disinfecting in the food & beverage, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries. Tanks and piping are cleaned and sterilized with various cleaning solutions, fresh or hot water, or steam after manufacturing products is completed.


Reverse osmosis (RO) is a separation process that uses pressure to force a solution through a membrane that retains the solute on one side and allows the pure solvent to pass to the other side. More formally, it is the process of forcing a solvent from a region of high solute concentration through a membrane to a region of low solute concentration by applying a pressure in excess of the osmotic pressure.


The kraft process, also known as kraft pulping or the sulfate process, is a technology for conversion of wood into wood pulp that consists of almost pure cellulose fibers. Today, the kraft process is used in approximately 80% of paper production.


Yokogawa’s conductivity transmitters and converters possess USP functions that make this seemingly complex and troublesome requirement pain-free and automatic.

Why am I getting a temperature compensation 1 error on the analyzer when I'm using either an inductive or contacting conductivity sensor? Common causes for temperature compensation errors.
Edition 1

Why am I getting a temperature compensation 1 error on the analyzer when I'm using either an inductive or contacting conductivity sensor? Common causes for temperature compensation errors.

With an Ohm meter check the following wires on the ISC40G sensor cable: 11 to 12 (Pt1000 or Thermistor) 13 to 17 – Sensor coil – expect low resistance. If unstable or above 100Ω it is bad. 15 to 16 - Sensor coil – ex...
Soak the sensor in 5 - 10% Hydrochloric acid (HCl) in water solution. for 5 - 10 minutes, then rinse. If you have trouble finding 5 - 10% HCL you can buy muriatic acid at a building supply house and it is usually 20 - 30% HCL. Check the label. Dilute...
The difference is the temperature sensor. The SC41 has a Ni100 temperature element and the SC42 has a PT1000 temperature element. PT1000 is a better temperature element, but some old electronics will not accept a PT1000 temperature element, so the SC...
You can test the ISC converter by simulating a conductivity reading using an ISC40 sensor. You will need: A known working ISC40 sensor. A piece of wire One or two decade box/resistance sources. Connect sensor wires 13-17 to analyzer. ...
All Yokogawa analyzers use an open architecture with adjustable temperature compensation, adjustable isopotential point, and adjustable slope. They are compatible with all direct pH, ORP, and conductivity sensors. There are two exceptions to th...




Installing the sanitary fitting on an ISC40 sensor. While we strive to provide the most safe and accurate information possible, we are not responsible for any loss or damages resulting from attempting to replicate the acts conducted in this video. Furthermore, we shall not be held liable for use or misuse of information contained in this video.


In this 40 min session you will learn the fundamental requirements for aqueous conductivity measurements; the differences between "Contacting" and "Inductive" measurement techniques and which one to use for a particular application. As well as learn the importance of online diagnostics. The goal is to provide participants with simple techniques they can implement to improve their day to day operations and to identify causes of errors and how to correct them

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