A Word About

Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry

Atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS) is an analytical method that uses a specific instrument. In AAS, a small sample of a material (ideally a liquid) is introduced into a small graphite furnace. Electric current is passed through the chamber walls, causing it to heat to hundreds of degrees. At a high enough temperature, the sample is transformed to a plasma. A special lamp is used to direct light at a specific wavelength at the sample. A highly sensitive and precise optical sensor is then used to detect the change in intensity of this light as it passes throught the plasma. This change in light intensity is used to quantify a specific metal (depending on the lamp used) in the sample.

How is this used? The applications of AAS are quite varied. As an example, at the Eye Research Institute at Columbia University, FPLC was used to separate fluids from various parts of the eye into specific proteins. These were then separately analyzed using AAS to quantify how each metal was transported through the eye by the various proteins.


Page updated 11/25/16


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