Atomic-Spectroscopy In atomic spectroscopy, the composition of an element in a sample is determined by its electromagnetic or mass spectrum. Other analytical methods that provide elemental determination include atomic absorption (AA), atomic emission, and mass spectrometry.
AA measures the amount of light an atom absorbs, and requires a light source (usually a hollow- cathode lamp or electrodeless discharge lamp), atom source, monochromator, detector, electronics, and a data display. Keep in mind that flame AA shortens your analysis time, but graphite furnace AA (GFAA) significantly improves sensitivity and detection limits.
Simultaneous, multielement detection is the hallmark of inductively coupled plasma optical/atomic emission spectroscopy, or ICP-OES/AES. You’ll also get good limits of detection, high sensitivity, and high throughput. Solid-state detectors based on CCDs enhance flexibility.
Additional OES techniques include laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), which is simple and fast, with low-ppm detection limits and little to no sample prep, and high-spectral-range arc/spark OES, for fast elemental analysis of solid metallic samples.
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How do I choose an atomic spectroscopy instrument?
Selecting the right system can be tricky since the various techniques’ effectiveness in the lab can overlap. The best way to narrow down your options is to take a hard look at exactly what you need: Is your main criterion fast throughput, results credibility, or a wide analytical range? A few things to keep in mind:
Make sure the instrument’s detection limits are adequate for your lab, to avoid lengthy analyte concentration times, and carefully consider your required level of sample throughput.
Instrumentation for flame AA and GFAA tends to come in at a lower cost than multielement ICP-OES because the former are usually less complex instruments. Speaking of ICP-OES, although it is well-known for multielement analysis, remember that throughput can exceed 73 elements per minute for individual samples.
What’s new in atomic spectroscopy
Updates focus on multiple configurations such as flame, furnace, mercury, and flow injection on one space-saving unit, use of a xenon arc lamp as a single light source that also improves sensitivity, improved autosampling capabilities, solids analysis without atomization, and nonmetals detection. Software capabilities are always improving system ease of use, particularly important if more than one technician is using the system.
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