The History Of PPM

By: IHMCS | 17 Jan 2024
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Parts per million (ppm) is a unit typically used to express the concentration of a substance in a solution or mixture. However, ppm can also be used to determine parts and quality in the automotive industry. The ppm value is calculated by dividing the mass or volume of the substance by the total mass or volume of the solution and then multiplying the result by one million. This gives us the concentration of the substance in parts per million or ppm.

In the world of scientific measurements, parts per million (ppm) is a term that is frequently used. But what exactly is ppm and how is it measured?

In various fields like chemistry and environmental science, the measurement of concentration is crucial. One widely used measure of concentration is parts per million (ppm), which quantifies the amount of a specific substance in a larger mixture, providing valuable insights into the composition of various substances. In this article, we will explore the concept of ppm, its calculation methods, and its significance in different industries.

The History Of PPM

In the early years, chemists and physicists used various methods to determine the concentration of substances in a solution. This involved measuring the mass or volume of the substance and comparing it to the total mass or volume of the solution. These measurements were often expressed as a ratio or a percentage.

As scientific knowledge and technology advanced, researchers realized the need for a more precise and standardized measurement system, which led to the development of the parts per million measurements. The concept behind ppm is simple – it represents the number of parts of a substance per one million parts of a solution.

The ppm measurement system gained widespread popularity in various fields, including chemistry, environmental science, and industry. Its use became particularly important in areas such as water quality testing, air pollution monitoring, and industrial process control. By providing a standardized unit of measurement, ppm allows scientists and engineers to compare data and make informed decisions based on accurate information.

Today, ppm is an essential tool in many scientific disciplines. It allows researchers to quantify the concentration of substances in a solution or a mixture with great precision. Whether it’s monitoring pollutants in the air, analyzing water samples for causes and effects of water pollution, or ensuring product quality in manufacturing processes, ppm measurement plays a crucial role in understanding and managing our environment.

Calculating PPM: Volume Vs Mass

To grasp the concept of ppm calculation, let’s consider examples using both volume and mass measurements. Suppose you have 1 liter of water with 0.2 grams of salt dissolved in it. Since 1 liter of water is equivalent to 1 kilogram of mass, the total mass in this example is 1 kilogram. To determine the proportion of salt in the water, you can use the following calculation:

Salt concentration = (0.2 g / 1 kg) = 0.0002 (parts per part or parts per 1)

To convert this value to ppm, multiply it by 1,000,000 (10^6):

Salt concentration in ppm = 0.0002 × 10^6 = 200 PPM

Similarly, volume calculations can also be used to calculate ppm. For instance, if you have a sample of 1 cubic meter of air with 0.0004 cubic meters of carbon dioxide, the ppm concentration of carbon dioxide can be determined as follows:

Cabon dioxide (CO2) concentration = (0.0004 m^3 / 1 m^3) = 0.0004 (parts per part or parts per 1)

To convert this value to ppm, multiply by 1,000,000:

CO2 concentration in ppm = 0.0004 × 10^6 = 400 PPM

PPM Calculator & Formula

While the above calculations can be performed manually, there are numerous online ppm calculators available for added convenience. These calculators require inputting the same type of quantity (either volume or mass) providing you with accurate results. 

It is important to note that a measure of milligrams per liter (mg/L) of water is also considered a ppm amount by mass, given that 1 liter of water has a mass of 1 kilogram.

PPM Conversion From Percentage

Converting ppm from a percentage is a straightforward process! Since a percentage represents “per hundred,” multiplying the percentage value by 10,000 will yield the ppm value. The formula for this conversion is as follows: ppm = (percentage value) × 10,000

For example, if you have a concentration expressed as a percentage, you can easily convert it to ppm using the above formula.

Industries That Use PPM Measurements

As mentioned, ppm measurements are used to express the level of pollutants, contaminants, or other substances in various materials or environments. Therefore, several industries rely on ppm measurements to ensure the quality, safety, and compliance of their products or processes.

Water Treatments

One industry that heavily relies on ppm measurements is the water treatment industry. Water treatment plants use ppm measurements to monitor the levels of various contaminants in water sources, including measuring the concentration of chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride, and heavy metals like lead or mercury. 

By ensuring that these substances are within safe limits, water treatment plants can provide clean and safe drinking water to communities. Parts per million measurements are also used in wastewater treatment to monitor the levels of pollutants before releasing the treated water back into the environment.


If you are a keen aquarist or work in the aquaculture industry, you are probably already familiar with ppm. Measuring dissolved oxygen in water is one of the most common uses of ppm. Dissolved oxygen levels in water play a critical role in the survival of aquatic animals and plants. Therefore, aquarists can identify the causes of low dissolved oxygen in water by using ppm measurements. 

Pharmaceutical Industry

Pharmaceutical companies use ppm measurements to determine the concentration of active ingredients in medications. This is crucial to ensure the strength and effectiveness of drugs. 

The ppm measurements are also used to monitor impurities or contaminants that may be present in the manufacturing process of drugs or vaccines.  By maintaining strict control over ppm levels, pharmaceutical companies can ensure that their products meet regulatory standards and are safe for sale/use to the general public.

Food & Beverages

Food and beverage manufacturers use ppm measurements to monitor the levels of additives, preservatives, and contaminants in their products. This includes measuring the concentration of substances such as food dyes, pesticides, or heavy metals during manufacturing/brewing processes like fermentation. By maintaining accurate ppm measurements, food manufacturers can ensure that their products are safe for consumption and comply with food safety regulations.

Environmental Industries

Different types of environmental monitoring heavily rely on ppm measurements to assess pollution levels in air, soil, and water. For example, scientists depend on ppm measurements to measure CO2 levels in our atmosphere. Because of ppm measurements, we can measure the level of CO2 and determine the maximum “safe” concentration, which according to the latest science is 350 ppm. However, atmospheric CO2 has been measured >400 ppm, and therefore we must continue to measure ppm levels and try to decrease CO2 emissions. 

Environmental agencies and organizations also use ppm measurements to determine the concentration of pollutants such as carbon monoxide, ozone, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These measurements help identify areas of concern and develop strategies for pollution control and mitigation.

Automotive Industry

In the automotive industry, ppm measurements are used to monitor the levels of pollutants emitted by vehicles, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) or particulate matter. This helps automotive manufacturers ensure that their vehicles meet emission standards and environmental regulations. Parts per million measurements are also used during the production process to monitor the quality and consistency of materials used in vehicle components; ppm is used as an established key performance indicator (KPI).

The Significance Of PPM In Quality Performance

Parts per million measurements are not only used in scientific measurements but also play a vital role in quality performance assessments. Customers often employ ppm as a measurement to evaluate the quality of products or services. 

Initially, a defect rate of less than 1% (10,000 ppm) was considered acceptable for suppliers. However over time, expectations have increased, and the target defect rate for most automotive components is now 25 ppm or 0.0025%.

To illustrate the significance of ppm, let’s consider a scenario where you had 25 defective pieces in a shipment of 1,000 pieces. To calculate the ppm, divide the number of defective pieces by the total number of pieces and multiply by 1,000,000:

Defective pieces = 25

Total pieces = 1000

ppm = (25 / 1000) × 1,000,000 = 25,000 PPM

In this case, the ppm represents the number of defective pieces per million.

Achieving Low PPM Rates

Maintaining low ppm rates requires a systematic and scientific approach to design and manufacturing. More is needed to rely on traditional manufacturing methods that allow for higher scrap rates. To achieve the target PPM rates, careful planning, design, and execution are essential. 

The monitoring and measurement systems available today enable better control over the manufacturing process, leading to improved quality outcomes. Quality cannot be inspected after the fact; it must be integrated into every stage of the production process.

The Role Of Measurement In Quality Control

Measurement is a fundamental aspect of quality control. By accurately measuring and quantifying various parameters, it becomes possible to identify deviations and take corrective actions promptly. PPM serves as an important metric for assessing product quality and identifying areas for improvement.

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In a hypothetical scenario where a company produces 10,000,000 parts per year, operating for 250 days, and aiming for a ppm requirement of 25, the permissible number of defective parts would be 250 per year. This equates to only one defective part per day for the entire plant, emphasizing the need for rigorous quality control measures.


Parts per million (ppm) is a measure of concentration widely used in various industries, including chemistry and quality performance assessments as it provides valuable insights into the composition of substances and serves as a metric for evaluating product quality. It is calculated using volume or mass measurements, however, now there are many online calculators available for convenience.

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