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Atomic Spectrometry and Elemental Analysis

  1. Bernhard Welz,
  2. Daniel L.G. Borges

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/3527600434.eap032.pub3

Encyclopedia of Applied Physics

Encyclopedia of Applied Physics

How to Cite

Welz, B. and Borges, D. L. 2009. Atomic Spectrometry and Elemental Analysis. Encyclopedia of Applied Physics. 421–476.

Author Information

  1. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Departamento de Quómica, Florianópolis, SC, Brazil

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009


This chapter starts with an introduction to the early history of spectroscopic investigations in the nineteenth century, followed by general considerations about atomic spectra and interferences that might be encountered. This chapter discusses optical atomic spectroscopy with its three main techniques, optical emission spectrometry (OES), atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS) and atomic fluorescence spectrometry (AFS), as well as X-Ray spectroscopy, also including X-ray emission, absorption, and fluorescence. The section on optical atomic spectroscopy begins with the basic principles of this technique, followed by a description of the physics of atomization and excitation, atomic spectra and spectral lines, and the measurement of radiation, calibration, and evaluation. The section on OES covers excitation sources, including arc and spark sources, glow discharges and inductively coupled plasmas, as well as lasers, which are being used increasingly in laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). The section on spectrometers deals with mono- and polychromators, including the detectors used in this kind of equipment. The section on AAS includes a discussion on the atomizers used for this technique, mainly flames and graphite furnaces, and also on chemical vapor generation techniques, such as cold vapor and hydride generation. Radiation sources and spectrometers for line source AAS as well as those for high-resolution continuum-source AAS are described, with a detailed discussion on the new potentialities of the latter technique. The general principles and the instrumentation of AFS are discussed briefly, according to the limited application of this technique, which includes the use of laser-excited AFS. The section on X-ray spectroscopy provides the theoretical principles behind the emission and absorption of X-rays, in particular, X-ray fluorescence (XRF), using different kind of equipment, that is, wavelength-dispersive and energy-dispersive instrumentation. Total-reflection XRF is discussed as also particle-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) and portable instrumentation. The chapter concludes with an outlook on the potential future development in the field of atomic spectroscopy and elemental analysis.


  • optical emission spectrometry;
  • atomic absorption spectrometry;
  • atomic fluorescence spectrometry;
  • X-ray spectroscopy