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Titration; Important In Chemistry And Medicine

Sep 13, 2008
Titration fundamentally has two distinct meanings in both the scientific and medical spheres. In science it is a method used in the laboratory to analyse samples while in medicine titration can refer to the process of reducing a patient's dose gradually until they are healed. In the scientific world, and particularly in chemistry it is the process of finding a concentration of certain reactants in solutions. Because of this functionality, titration is also known as volumetric analysis, due to a heavy reliance on the measurement of volume and concentration.

The process can be quite complicated; put simply titration involves taking an agent of unknown concentration and adding it to a solution. The agent is often known as the titrant and the purpose of adding it to a solution is to create a measurable reaction with the unknown agent. This method enables the scientist or technician to find the exact concentration of the unknown agent, also known as the analyte. The concentration of the analyte however will not be found until the reaction has finished, in most cases this ascertained by measuring the pH of the solution, a neutral pH indicates a terminated reaction. In addition, scientists often add an indicator to the solution that will change colour to give an assessable endpoint to the reaction. This method is used both in the chemical and medical spheres.

This indicator method gives scientists and technicians a tangible result to the process. The use of these indicators is sufficiently sophisticated for the purpose of the experiment. In an acidic based solution the indicators are sophisticated enough to indicate a change to any pH level. It is not always needed however to include an indicator in the reactant, in some cases the reaction itself will indicate when it has reached its endpoint, for instance some reactants will turn clear or change colour when the reaction has ceased.

Titration can only occur if both the titrant and analyte are in a liquid state of matter. If either is in a solid state, for example a powder, they must first be dissolved into a neutral liquid in order to be used in the titration process. At this stage it may also be necessary to dilute the agents if the concentration is too high; this will normally be done to control the potency of the reaction. All measurements require a great deal of accuracy; many would argue a mathematical level of accuracy. This is because the results of titration experiments are usually highly important and have huge implications to either a patient or a chemical process.

In terms of the practicalities of the process the lab technician will normally take a beaker which contains an exact amount of a known reactant and indicator. Then the titrant will be added, again the amount of this agent will be carefully measured and usually added from a cylinder with a tap from above, by doing this an exact amount can be added to the solution. As long as the indicator has been selected correctly then the experiment will revel how much of the titrant is needed to neutralise the solution. In most cases the results will be shown in a graph; for the experiment to be successful this graph should match a uniform curve.

There are a large number of applications and uses for titration results in chemistry and science more generally. In addition it is often used in the development of drugs for medical use. Without the knowledge to conduct the process it is doubtful that as many drugs and solutions we all use regularly would be as widely available as they are today.
About the Author
Science expert Thomas Pretty looks into the titration process and its uses in chemistry and medicine.
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