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Reliability of electrochemical noise measurements: Results of round-robin testing on electrochemical noise

Sixteen laboratories have performed electrochemical noise (EN) measurements based on two systems. The first uses a series of dummy cells consisting of a “star” arrangement of resistors in order to validate the EN measurement equipment and determine its baseline noise performance, while the second system, based on a previous round-robin in the literature, examines the corrosion of aluminium in three environments. All participants used the same measurement protocol and the data reporting and analysis were performed with automatic procedures to avoid errors. The measurement instruments used in the various laboratories include commercial general-purpose potentiostats and custom-built EN systems. The measurements on dummy cells have demonstrated that few systems are capable of achieving instrument noise levels comparable to the thermal noise of the resistors, because of its low level. However, it is of greater concern that some of the instruments exhibited significant artefacts in the measured data, mostly because of the absence of anti-aliasing filters in the equipment or because the way it is used. The measurements on the aluminium samples involve a much higher source noise level during pitting corrosion, and most (though not all) instruments were able to make reliable measurements. However, during passivation, the low level of noise could be measured by very few systems. The round-robin testing has clearly shown that improvements are necessary in the choice of EN measurement equipment and settings and in the way to validate EN data measured. The results emphasise the need to validate measurement systems by using dummy cells and the need to check systematically that the noise of the electrochemical cell to be measured is significantly higher than the instrument noise measured with dummy cells of similar impedance.