A Guide of Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy: Techniques and Applications

Atomic absorption spectroscopy is one of the leading technological and scientific advancements that provides numerous innovative solutions to age-old problems. Recent technological advancements and automated workstations now allow scientists to work with increased efficiency and reliability.

As such, Atomic Spectroscopy continues to yield numerous benefits in different fields and industries.

In this post, we discuss a brief history and purpose of the process, including some common techniques and applications for its use today.

Defining Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy

Atomic spectroscopy is the process where researchers test the concentrations of gas-phase atoms in a given sample. The process involves testing the amount of light that the free ions within a sample can absorb.

By exposing a working sample to a specific wavelength of light and tracking how it absorbs the light, researchers can determine the presence of other elements within the sample. This also allows scientists to determine the sampled element’s concentration.

Many industries utilize atomic absorption spectroscopy because it is instrumental in helping researchers detect metals within samples. That is why the process is mainly utilized by pharmacologists, archaeologists, forensics teams, manufacturing, and the mining industry.

Techniques of Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy

This section discusses the different techniques and methodologies you can use to apply atomic absorption spectroscopy to real-world practices.

For the process to be effective, all solids and liquids must be vaporized into a gaseous state. The analyte atoms in the sample must also be atomized. You can do this using one of two main processes listed below:

  • Flame Atomizers

Flame atomizers are the oldest, most commonly used atomizers in atomic spectroscopy. This atomizing technique is used to test liquid samples and solid samples that have been dissolved in a liquid.

For this process, you will need to first evaporate the sample, leaving behind only dry nano-particles of the sample. These solid particles will be vaporized and converted into a gaseous state and then dissociated into free atoms.

The free atoms will be converted into gaseous ions and exposed to a flame at extremely high temperatures. The sample is also exposed to a radiation beam during this step to measure the absorbed electromagnetic radiation.

  • Electrothermal Atomizers

In this method, electrothermal atomizers utilize graphite tubes to heat samples instead of a flame.This technique allows researchers to analyze gaseous, liquid, and solid samples directly, unlike flame atomization.

Electrothermal atomizers also minimize interference problems and are more accurate at determining more elements for most matrices.

Applications of Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy

As stated above, atomic spectroscopy is applicable in several different industries and for scientific studies. Some of its more common applications include:

  • Forensics

Forensics teams have used atomic absorption spectroscopy for many years to perform in-depth analyses of blood samples, muscle and brain tissue, and gunshot powder residue.

The technology has also improved the accuracy of toxicology reports, especially in cases of metal poisoning. Some of the more common cases of metal poisoning that are easily detectable using atomic absorption spectroscopy include lead and mercury. This technology can detect these metals even in trace amounts.

  • Agriculture

Atomic absorption spectroscopy is used to analyze and identify the presence of potentially harmful elements. This includes analyzing soil samples to check the effects and quality of the soil on the overall rate of food production in different environments.

Soil samples with high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous tend to yield higher production volumes and healthier crops.

Researchers can use atomic absorption spectroscopy to determine the presence of such elements in the soil and the quantities that they appear. The process can also help scientists detect harmful chemicals like rhodium in water samples as well.

The Bottom Line

Atomic absorption spectroscopy is a vital process used in numerous industries and harbor several benefits. In the scientific and research world, having the right data at the right time is always critical in helping scientists cut through different complexities of samples.

Atomic Spectroscopy helps make this possible.