In applying atomic absorption spectrometry to an analytical problem, the analyst must have an understanding of the basic instrumental components. The essential components of an atomic absorption instrument consist of a primary source of radiation, a means of producing atomic vapor from the analyte, wavelength selection, signal detection, and readout. While several types of radiation sources are available, hollow cathode lamps are the primary choice for most workers in the field.
The production of atomic vapor of the analyte is probably the most important parameter in atomic absorption spectrometry. The selection of the oxidant-fuel or nonflame method of producing neutral atoms will depend upon the concentration of analyte and the matrices. While the analyst has a wide choice of methods at his disposal, an understanding of the problems related to the production of atomic vapor is essential to obtain the maximum precision and accuracy. Also, interferences, sample preparation, and methods for evaluation of data are discussed.
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