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Market Profile: Atomic Fluorescence.

Comparable to the techniques of atomic absorption and atomic emission is the lesser-known method of atomic fluorescence spectroscopy (AFS). First developed in 1964 as an analytical technique, AFS is most often used for elemental analysis. When gas-phase atoms are excited to higher energy levels by absorption of electromagnetic radiation, an optical emission results. AFS analyzes this emission. This analysis is valuable in studying the electronic structure of atoms and measuring analyte concentrations. An advantage of AFS is that it can work with a large number of elements, a beneficial attribute when analyzing metals in biological samples, agricultural samples, water and industrial oils.

AFS systems include either a hollow cathode lamp or a laser to excite the atoms. A monochromator and photomultiplier tubes disperse and detect the atomic fluorescence at certain wavelengths, and a detector reads the emission and amplifies the signal.

Although AFS is not as commonly employed as other established methods, like atomic absorbance, its main advantage is greater sensitivity due to the fluorescence signal's low background noise. This sensitivity is more apparent when analyzing certain elements, such as mercury. Further developments in light sources and atomizers could greatly increase the number of applications of AFS. Currently, applications for AFS exist in the clinical, agricultural, geological and metallurgical, pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries.

Nearly all vendors of AFS are small companies that are able to focus their instrument development on niche markets. Larger instrument manufacturers have either abandoned the AFS market or opted not to enter it, as the demand for AFS is minimal. Current vendors of AFS include Aurora Instruments, PS Analytical, Tekran and Leeman Labs of Germany.

Though AFS is capable of becoming widely used, such growth is unlikely without the support of a major instrument manufacturer.
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Publication:Instrument Business Outlook
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 31, 2001
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