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How can I tell if the conductivity cell on my CTD is broken?

Conductivity cells are made of glass, which is breakable.

  • If a cell is cracked, it typically causes a salinity shift or erratic data.
  • However, if the crack occurs at the end of the cell, the sensor will continue to function normally until water penetrates the epoxy jacket. Post-cruise calibration results will reveal whether or not water has penetrated the epoxy jacket.

Inspect the cell thoroughly and make sure that it isn’t cracked or abused in any way.

  • (SBE 9plus, 25, or 25plus) If the readings are good at the surface but erratic at depth, it is likely that the problem is in the cable or the connector, not the conductivity cell. Check the connections, making sure that you burp the connectors when you plug them in (see Application Note 57: Connector Care and Cable Installation). Check the cable itself (swap with a spare cable, if available).
  • If the readings are incorrect at the surface but good after a few meters, it is likely that the problem is flow-related. Verify that the pump is working properly. Check the air bleed valve (the white plastic piece in the Y-fitting, which is installed on vertically deployed CTDs) to see if it is clogged; clean out the small hole with a piece of fine wire supplied with your CTD.
  • If the readings are incorrect for the entire cast, there may be an incorrect calibration coefficient or the cell may be cracked.
  • Check the conductivity calibration coefficients in the configuration (.con or .xmlcon) file.
  • Do a frequency check on the conductivity cell. Disconnect the plumbing on the cell. Rinse the cell with distilled or de-ionized water and blow it dry (use your mouth and not compressed air, as there tends to be oil in the air lines on ships). With the cell completely dry, check the frequency reading. It should read within a few tenths of a Hz of the 0 reading on your Calibration Sheet. If it does not, something is wrong with the cell and it needs to be repaired.