Where is AAS Used?

Rohan Mathew

Updated on:

What is atomic absorption spectroscopy?

To answer this question, it is necessary to understand that atomic absorption spectroscopy, AAS, is one the most used tools for analysis in the branch of analytical chemistry. It can determine innumerable metals with its unique technique that is beneficial for several applications and is comparatively interference-free. 

AAS works in electrothermal and also in the Flame mode. It is excellent to determine metal concentrations in different specimens that remain dissolved in acids. It has also been widely used for the identification of metal levels inside nanoparticles. It even works optimally in cases where there is a low-metal concentration level. 

The atom cells used in AAS are of two kinds. It acts as the medium to convert the sample from liquid form into free atoms. 

  1. Flame mode 
  2. Electro-thermal- ETAAS (which involves heating of sample cells)

It is a general practice to use the Flame technique when there is adequate analyte present in a given sample. It has the advantage of being quick when there are few elements involved. In comparison to other techniques, it is also relatively simple. 

ETAAS, on the other hand, demands skilled operation and is not as rapid as the flame technique. Despite its slow results, it yields highly superior detection when compared to its counterpart.

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Where is AAS used primarily?

To develop materials:

Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy is used widely in this field. Materials share some common properties like brittleness, crystallinity, and grain size. These are qualities that are influenced by the presence and composition of trace metals. So the analysis of these compounds helps provide helpful information on the relative performance of these materials. 


AAS is applied for environmental monitoring to identify contamination by trace metals. This pollution may affect oceans, lakes, rivers, and drinking water. It is vital to determine the safety of these water sources. 

AAS help to determine if they come under the safety limits usually specified by regulatory bodies. Monitoring these levels is also integral to evaluate the practicality of coming up with commercial projects at a particular site. 


Determining the composition of rocks, minerals, and other naturally formed substances gives information on the feasibility of carrying out mining-related activities in a specific area. 

After the mining process is completed, the ores or minerals obtained undergo testing for their composition. It is executed to judge how efficient the refining operations were. Additionally, analyzing the trace metals is beneficial in endeavors to find oil or water deposits. 


Precious and semi-precious stones undergo grading based on the presence of trace elements or metals. Archaeological artifacts also undergo analysis of elemental compositions, which makes it beneficial to trace the source. 


AAS plays a vital role here in analyzing trace metal concentration. It is also helpful to determine dosage limits. It is because certain elements are beneficial only up to a prescribed limit. When used beyond this, it can have harmful effects. It is an unavoidable step in developing formulas and testing catalyst efficiency.

Foods/ Beverages:

In terms of processed foods, there is a possibility of metal presence due to its contact with processing equipment. It may also happen during catalytic conversions. As consumer awareness is rising by the day, it becomes vital to prioritize food safety. 

Manufacturers have the burden to ensure that the trace metal concentration in food items should not exceed the prescribed limits. These rigorous quality controls are made possible by AAS and similar sophisticated instruments of analysis. 

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Mineral oils and edible oils are subject to refining before they reach the consumer’s table. Refining processes constitute distillation methods and sometimes catalytic refining. There is an intake of metals when such operations happen, which can cause a deterioration in performance. 

Such metal presence can also cause health hazards. AAS analysis of substances like engine oil helps to get diagnostic information about the degeneration of engine parts. 


In agriculture, apart from the soil acidity, the soil’s nutrient value significantly determines its productivity. So identifying the trace metal composition in the soil helps in influencing the yield. One can also use AAS to analyze the different parts of a plant, like roots, stems, and leaves. It helps determine the mineral intake and how they are distributed under varying growth conditions. 


AAS analysis helps to get information on samples like stomach content, which is essential to determine food poisoning. Analysis of paint chips, metallic substances, fiber, and even hair strands can provide vital data to solve a crime. It may also give insights to determine the nature of the event. 


The role of AAS is becoming increasingly relevant in the modern-day and age. The endless applications become vital in a variety of fields and operations.