What Processes take place in the Flame during Atomic Absorption Analysis?

What Processes take place in the Flame during Atomic Absorption Analysis?

Most of you would have observed the changes in colour of the Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy flame on aspiration of sample into it and wondered as to what processes lead to such changes.

AAS Flame with Blank Introduction

AAS Flame with Sample Introduction

A brief introduction to the phenomena has been made in the article Air or Nitrous oxide – which is the right oxidant gas for flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy analysis. The present article discusses the processes in further detail. However, before understanding these processes it is important to have an understanding of the Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy flame structure.

Flame Structure

The appearance and relative sizes of the three zones depend on choice of fuels and oxidants and also on their respective proportions.

AAS combudion diagram
Zones of Flame

Primary combustion zone is close to burner tip and has a blue luminiscence. It contains non-atomised molecules and fuel species such as \(C_2\) and CH

Inter zonal region is rich in free atoms and is the preferred region for  Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy analysis. It is also the hottest zone of the flame.

Secondary combustion zone is the outer zone. It is rich in reformed species as temperatures are lower than in the core.

As temperature within the flame varies the signal sensitivity also depends on flame height. Flame height adjustment helps isolation of best absorption intensity signals. Further as the burner slot is of a linear design rotation of burner had also helps in signal intensity adjustments.

Flame Processes

The liquid sample enters the flame as fine droplets after nebulization in the spray chamber. Due to the high temperature the solvent evaporates and leaves solid salts or crystals behind. The solid particles melt and molecular vapour is formed. In the higher temperature region thermal dissociation of molecular vapour takes place and a mix of ground state and ionized atoms results. The ground state atoms are responsible for absorption of characteristic light wavelengths reaching from the light source. The entire sequence is completed in about 10-3 sec (residence time of sample in flame).

Flow Diagram
Flame Processes

Majority of elements are analyzed using air – acetylene flames having temperatures in the range of 2150°C – 2300°C. However, hotter flame temperatures of 2600°C – 2800°C using nitrous oxide-acetylene combination are required for analysis of refractory elements which form stable oxides which do not decompose at the air-acetylene flame temperatures.

Hope you found the article informative and interesting. We shall be obliged if you offer your valued comments.

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  1. Doc It is really a very nice information regarding flame process.

    1. Thanks Dr Manju. Glad to know that the you found the article interesting.Please do let us know any other topics that are of your interest.

  2. Thanks Doctor for the Introduction on AAS basics. Would appreciate if you could throw some light on repeatability of results with the variation of integration times. Regards

    1. Dear Deepak,
      Please excuse me as your question is not clear to me.You can also revert to me on my e-mail for further clarifications and discussions.


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