What it does :
“Atomic absorption spectrophotometry provides accurate quantitative analyses for metals in water, sediments, soils or rocks. (Samples are analyzed in solution form, so solid samples must be leached or dissolved prior to analysis.)”
Atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) determines the presence of metals in liquid samples. Metals include Fe, Cu, Al, Pb, Ca, Zn, Cd and many more. It also measures the concentrations of metals in the samples. Typical concentrations range in the low mg/L range. In their elemental form, metals will absorb ultraviolet light when they are excited by heat. Each metal has a characteristic wavelength that will be absorbed. The AAS instrument looks for a particular metal by focusing a beam of uv light at a specific wavelength through a flame and into a detector. The sample of interest is aspirated into the flame. If that metal is present in the sample, it will absorb some of the light, thus reducing its intensity. These instruments measure the change in intensity. A computer data system converts the change in intensity into an absorbance.
How it works:
Atomic absorption units have four basic parts: interchangeable lamps that emit light with element-specific wavelengths, a sample aspirator, a flame or furnace apparatus for volatilizing the sample, and a photon detector. In order to analyze for any given element, a lamp is chosen that produces a wavelength of light that is absorbed by that element. Sample solutions are aspirated into the flame. If any ions of the given element are present in the flame, they will absorb light produced by the lamp before it reaches the detector. The amount of light absorbed depends on the amount of the element present in the sample. Absorbance values for unknown samples are compared to calibration curves prepared by running known samples.