A pH meter is a scientific instrument that measures the hydrogen-ion activity in water-based solutions, indicating its acidity or alkalinity expressed as pH. The pH meter measures the difference in electrical potential between a pH electrode and a reference electrode, and so the pH meter is sometimes referred to as a "potentiometric pH meter". The difference in electrical potential relates to the acidity or pH of the solution. The pH meter is used in many applications ranging from laboratory experimentation to quality control.
The rate and outcome of chemical reactions taking place in water often depends on the acidity of the water, and it is therefore useful to know the acidity of the water, typically measured by means of a pH meter. Knowledge of pH is useful or critical in many situations, including chemical laboratory analyses. pH meters are used for soil measurements in agriculture, water quality for municipal water supplies, swimming pools, environmental remediation; brewing of wine or beer; manufacturing, healthcare and clinical applications such as blood chemistry; and many other applications.
Advances in the instrumentation and in detection have expanded the number of applications in which pH measurements can be conducted. The devices have been miniaturized, enabling direct measurement of pH inside of living cells. In addition to measuring the pH of liquids, specially designed electrodes are available to measure the pH of semi-solid substances, such as foods. These have tips suitable for piercing semi-solids, have electrode materials compatible with ingredients in food, and are resistant to clogging.