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Devon Brown
SUPA Forensics
Block 4
What Is AES?

• A method of chemical analysis that measures the

intensity of light emitted by the atoms of elements
at specific wavelength
Chemical Principles
• Electrons from a higher energy level drop to a
lower energy level
• Electron emits a photon of light to dispose of
extra energy
How it Works
• Flame, spark, or plasma excites the electrons
• Electrons jump to a higher energy level
• As electrons return to ground state, they release
a photon
• Instrument measures intensity of photons and
their wavelength
• Determines elements present and they’re quantity
Emission Lines
• The frequency of an atom moving from a high
energy level to a lower energy level
• Wavelengths of photons emitted create lines
• Each element has unique emission lines
• Qualifies elements present in sample
Emission Band
• Graph of the intensity of the light emitted from a
• Intensity is a function of the wavelength
• Separates various elements by color (like
emission lines)
• Quantifies the amount of an element in a sample
Flame Atomic Emission Spectroscopy
• Sample is in the form of a sprayed solution or gas
• Flame heat evaporates solvent and breaks
chemical bonds
• Produces free atoms of the material
• Heat changes atoms into electrically charge
• Emit light as they lose energy
• Wavelength of light characteristic to specific
• Light dispersed by a prism and detected in
Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic
Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-AES)
• Inductively coupled plasma produces excited ions
• Ions and atoms radiate electromagnetically
charged particles
• Wavelengths produced correspond to a definite
• Determine the proportional quantity of a particular
element in a given sample
• Determine the elemental composition of an
unknown sample
• Study structures of atoms
• Analyzing motor oils
• Determine the presence of arsenic in food and
metals in wine
• Study trace elements that are bound to proteins
• Analyze trace elements in soil
• Determine origin
• Determine the composition of metallic and glass
• Determine origin and/or manufacturer
• Confirm a poison
• Detect a drug
• Preparation: samples must be converted into highly
excited free atoms
• Solid samples (glass, soil, metal alloy)
• Directly vaporize sample
• Excite sample by using a laser pulse or spark between electrodes
• Introduced to a exciting source by a semiliquid mixture or melted by a
laser in a stream of gas
• Liquid samples (bodily fluids, unknown solution)
• Reduced to a fine spray
• Carried to exciting source by flowing gas
Safety and Hazard Issues
• Chemicals tested can be very dangerous
• Keep away any flammable materials
• Extreme temperatures
• Glass and metal samples can have sharp edges
• Biological samples can contain poisonous
materials and disease
• Self-absorption
• Flame’s temperature is greatest at center –
concentration of excited atoms greater at center
• Atoms around outer edges not in the same state
• Excited atom emits a photon – grounded atoms in outer
regions of flame may absorb photon
• Decrease the emission intensity
• High possibility of chemical interaction
• Need a fairly large sample
• Sensitivity of instruments low
• Instability of atomization source
• Cannot conduct simultaneous or multi-elemental analyses

With the development of technology, most of these

limitations have been overcome.
Advantages Disadvantages
• Several elements can be
recorded at once • Equipment is more
• Higher temperatures means expensive
lower inter-element • Procedure is more
• Several elements can be complicated
analyzed from a very small • More time consuming
sample • Higher operating costs
• Nonmetals can be
determined by plasma
• Low concentration refractory
compounds can be
• High concentration range for
plasma sources
Works Cited
• “Atomic Spectroscopy.” Andor: An Oxford Instruments Company. www.andor.com.
Web. March 29, 2015.
• Banerjee, Prasenjit. “Atomic Emission Spectroscopy.” Chemistry Learner.
www.chemistrylearner.com. Web. March 17, 2012. March 30, 2015.
• Cylinder, Drew. “Atomic Spectra.” UC Davis Chemwiki. chemwiki.ucdavis.edu.
Web. March 29, 2015
• Harvey, Davis. “Atomic Emission Spectroscopy.” UC Davis Chemwiki.
chemwiki.ucdavis.edu. Web. March 29, 2015.
• Rosen, Vasiliy, Ph.D. “Atomic Spectroscopy: Basic Principles and Instruments.”
Slideshare. www.slideshare.net. Web. March 28, 2011. March 29, 2015.
• Scheeline, Alexander and Spudich, Thomas M. “Atomic Emission Spectroscopy.”
Analytical Science Digital Library. www.asdlib.org. Web. March 30, 2015.
• Spencer, James T, Ph.D. An Introduction to Forensic Science: The Science of
Criminalistics. Cengage Learning. 2007-2012. March 29, 2015
• Stone, David C, Ph.D. “Atomic Spectroscopy: Intrumentation, Techniques, and
Theory.” Chemistry University of Toronto. www.chem.utoronto.ca. Web. May 7,
2012. March 29, 2015.
• Troy, David B. The Science and Practice of Pharmacy. Remington. 2006.
books.google.com. Web. March 30, 2015.