Development of a cobalt electrode for the determination of phosphate in soil extracts and comparison with standard methods

Victor O. Ebuele, Daniel G. Congrave, Chris D. Gwenin, Vera Fitzsimmons-Thoss*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


A phosphate-sensitive cobalt electrode was evaluated in detecting orthophosphate ions (H2PO-4) in ammonium lactate–acetic acid soil extracts. The dependence of the mixed potential of a cobalt electrode on H2PO-4 concentration was investigated through potentiometry. The mechanism of detection is based on the consumption of a surface cobalt (II) oxide layer to form (Co3(PO4)2), which leads to a concentration-dependent shift of the mixed potential. Two reference electrodes were evaluated: Ag/AgCl (3 M) KCl and a platinum (Pt) wire. A linear response was observed using both reference electrodes. However, application of a Pt wire quasireference electrode increased the linear dynamic response range of the detector from 10–103 mg L−1 or 10−4–10−1 M (Ag/AgCl (3 M) KCl) to 0.1–105 mg L−1 or 10−6–101 M. In addition, the response time using the Pt wire was less than 5 min compared to a minimum of 10 min using Ag/AgCl (3 M) KCl. There was close agreement between the response of the phosphate-sensitive cobalt electrode with a standard colorimetric method. As dissolved organic substances can potentially interfere with electrochemical techniques, an investigation into the use of a nonpolar resin for decolorization and removal of organic matter in soil extracts was performed and successfully used. The phosphate-sensitive cobalt electrode was found to be a fast method for the analysis of soil extracts with high sensitivity and selectivity. It has the potential to be developed into a sensor for the in situ measurement of phosphate in various environmental matrices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)834-848
Number of pages15
JournalAnalytical Letters
Issue number6
Early online date8 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Ammonium lactate-acetic acid extraction
  • Cobalt electrode
  • Phosphate determination
  • Potentiometry
  • Soil extract


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