Sun March 02, 2008 By:


Expert Reply
Fri May 16, 2008

The atomic emission spectrum of an element is the set of frequencies the electromagnetic waves emitted by atoms of that element. Each atom's atomic emission spectrum is unique and can be used to determine if that element is part of an unknown compound.

The emission spectrum characteristics of some elements are plainly visible to the naked eye when these elements are heated. For example, when platinum wire is dipped into a Srontium nitrate solution and then inserted into a flame, the strontium atoms emit a red color. Similarly, when Copper is inserted into a flame, the flame becomes light blue. These definite characteristics allow elements to be identified by their atomic emission spectrum. Not all lights emitted by the spectrum are viewable to the naked eye, it also includes ultra violet rays and infra red lighting.

The fact that only certain colors appear in an element's atomic emission spectrum means that only certain frequencies of light are emitted. Each of these frequencies are related to energy by the formula:

herein E is energy, h is Planck's constant and ν is the frequency This concludes that only photonshaving certain energies are emitted by the atom. The principle of the atomic emission spectrum explains the varied colors in neon signs, as well as chemical flame test results mentioned above.

The frequencies of light that an atom can emit are dependent on states the electrons can be in. When excited, an electron moves to a higher energy level/orbital. When the electron falls back to its ground level the light is emitted.

An emission spectrum is always the inverse of its absorption spectrum.

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