Standard Article

Flame and Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometry in Environmental Analysis

Environment: Water and Waste

  1. Michael Sperling

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a0805

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Sperling, M. 2006. Flame and Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometry in Environmental Analysis. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. PerkinElmer Bodenseewerk GmbH, Überlingen, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS) is one of the most often used techniques for the quantitative determination of elements in environmental materials at trace and ultratrace levels. AAS is an optical atomic spectrometric technique based on the measurement of the specific absorption originating from free nonionized atoms in the gas phase. To transfer the analyte to free atoms, different types of atomizer are in use, the flame and the graphite furnace types being the most often used. Typical detection limits of flame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS) are of the order of 1–100 µg L−1, making it a perfect tool for the determination of minor and trace elements, at least for contaminated samples. Graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (GFAAS), offering detection limits which are about a factor of 20–200 lower than for FAAS, is the standard method for many trace elements, especially for background values, and for unpolluted samples, such as fresh water and biological materials. AAS in its conventional configuration is a single-element technique, which has to be used in a sequential mode when more than one element has to be determined. However, there are commercial instruments available that can be used for the determination of 6–8 elements simultaneously.