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Laboratory of Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS)

Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS)

Atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) is a spectroanalytical procedure for the quantitative determination of chemical elements using the absorption of optical radiation (light) by free atoms in the gaseous state. In analytical chemistry the technique is used for determining the concentration of a particular element (the analyte) in a sample to be analyzed. AAS can be used to determine over 70 different elements in solution or directly in solid samples.

The technique makes use of absorption spectrometry to assess the concentration of an analyte in a sample. It requires standards with known analyte content to establish the relation between the measured absorbance and the analyte concentration and relies therefore on the Beer-Lambert law.

In short, the electrons of the atoms in the atomizer can be promoted to higher orbitals (excited state) for a short period of time (nanoseconds) by absorbing a defined quantity of energy (radiation of a given wavelength). This amount of energy, i.e., wavelength, is specific to a particular electron transition in a particular element. In general, each wavelength corresponds to only one element, and the width of an absorption line is only of the order of a few picometers (pm), which gives the technique its elemental selectivity. The radiation flux without a sample and with a sample in the atomizer is measured using a detector, and the ratio between the two values (the absorbance) is converted to analyte concentration or mass using the Beer-Lambert Law.


Radiation source – The line radiation source is a neon-filled hollow-cathode lamp.

Atomizer - the most commonly used atomizers in AAS are flames, principally the air-acetylene flame with a temperature of about 2300 °C and the nitrous oxide system (N2O)-acetylene flame with a temperature of up to 3100 °C. The latter flame, in addition, offers a more reducing environment, being ideally suited for analytes with high affinity to oxygen. Another possibility are the electrothermal atomizers.

Monochromator – The radiation passes through a monochromator in order to separate the element-specific radiation from any other radiation emitted by the radiation source, which is finally measured by a detector.


The analysis is performed using calibration curve or method of standard additions.

Updated: 27.5.2016 13:27, Author: Jan Prchal

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