Atomic spectroscopy is based on the capability of atoms to either absorb or emit light. The laboratory has a Varian Atomic Spectrophotometer that operates in both atomic absorption and emission modes. The instrument is capable of fast scanning, meaning that it can take a measurement of one element then rapidly scan at another wave length.

In our instrument the atoms, primarily metals, are heated in a graphite tube to remove solvents, breakdown salts, but not so hot as to raise electrons to an excited state. Free atoms, usually metals, with electrons in the ground state will absorb and emit light at very narrow wave lengths.

The greater the concentration of the metal the less light reaches the detector-this is called atomic absorption.

Atomic light emission occurs when the atoms are heated to push electrons in an activated state-when the electrons fall back into ground state light is emitted based on the atom concentration.

Thus the instrumentation includes lamps emitting light of specific wave lengths, a graphite furnace to heat the sample, a monochromator, photodetector, and computer to record data.

The instrument is exceedingly sensitive-for example it can detect lead in drinking water at the level of 50 atoms per billion water atoms. The graphite furnace makes this sensitivity possible-impossible to do with flame only for heating.

The instrument requires special training-our technical staff runs the assays for other laboratories.


Room 1657  in the Medical Center Research Wing.

Contact Information:

Phone: 909-558-1000 (Ext. 87860)

On campus: Ext. 87860



Facility Director:

Wolff Kirsch, MD

Extension: 87071


Technical Assistance:

April Dickson

Extension: 87860


Use Policy:

Please contact us regarding our current use policy.


Please contact us regarding scheduling.