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Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy

Atomic Absorbtion Diagram

Project Brief

Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS) is an important analytical technique studied in Year 12 Chemistry. It is particularly useful for the quantitative and qualitative analysis of metal ions in environmental investigations, forensic analyses, and the mining industry.

The AAS is a specialised and relatively expensive instrument that is not accessible in the majority of secondary schools.

These materials are designed to give teachers and students a deeper understanding of the workings of this instrument and how to apply it for chemical analysis, as well as an insight into the way in which chemists apply their knowledge and skills to solve important problems.

A note from the creators:

Dr Vicky Barnett (USC) and Prof. Mark Buntine
(Chemistry Department, University of Adelaide).

Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS) is an important analytical technique, especially sensitive for the quantitative and qualitative analysis of metal ions. It is particularly useful for measuring the presence and amounts of toxic metal cations in environmental samples, as well as for interrogating the metal content of ores in the mining industry to evaluate the economical worth of pursuing their extraction.

Currently, there is no active research program in the University of Adelaide’s Chemistry department involving direct use of AAS, however it is a fundamental analytical technique that is taught to both second and third year undergraduate students, especially those interested in environmental issues and those interested in analytical chemistry. The undergraduate teaching laboratory in the chemistry department houses an AAS that is used so students can apply their knowledge of this important technique and conduct their own analysis of ‘genuine’ samples. For example, second year Environmental Chemistry undergraduate students perform an analysis of the content of copper and arsenic in treated pine samples (pine that is treated with a copper/chromium/arsenic compound that acts as a preservative and antifungal agent, increasing its longevity for outdoor use such as in children’s playgrounds).

For our program, Prof. Mark Buntine (who teaches this technique to undergraduate students at both second and third year levels) constructed and delivered the attached Powerpoint presentation as a 50 minute lecture to our Year 12 Chemistry students.

To reinforce the key points of the lecture, I also designed an AAS practical with a focus on the relevance to the mining industry (also attached). Students used the University of Adelaide’s AAS to analyse the copper content of an ore sample.

Files for this component:


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