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Hannah Langford

Spectroscopy Lab: Investigation of Metals in Solution
The purpose of this lab was to understand the role of emission lines and spectroscopy in
substance identification. This enabled us to better understand the refinement of atomic
models. Throughout this process we referenced the Bohr and quantum mechanical models of
the atom in an effort to explain the atomic emission spectrum lines.
The Bohr model of the atom depicts an atom where multiple orbits, containing the electrons,
surround the nucleus. All electrons have a set energy level, and electrons with the lowest level
of energy are found closest to the nucleus. When a photon hits the electron, it gains energy and
therefore ‘jumps’ to another, higher-energy, orbit farther from the nucleus. Then when the
electron releases the photon of equal or lesser energy, it falls back to a lower-energy orbit.
The quantum mechanical model of the atom is similar to the Bohr model in the same sense that
it is used to describe possible locations of electrons around the nucleus. The difference is that
instead of having definitive orbits set for the electrons to jump to and from, there are electron
clouds, or areas where the electrons could feasibly be. Since our knowledge on location of
electrons still remains a little vague, the quantum mechanical model is a better approximation
of where the electrons could be than Bohr’s model.
The color of light is determined by the frequency, or wavelength, of the electrons. This is
determined by the energy that the electron releases along with the photon when shifting
orbits. Spectroscopy uses color to determine unknown elements, which is exactly what our goal
in this procedure was. A spectrometer, as the name implies, measures the present wavelengths
from a light source. A spectroscope splits the light emitted from a plasma-state element into
different wavelengths to determine emission spectrum lines. A spectrometer also provides
similar outcomes but does so through graphing peaks which allows us to see the degree to
which each color is present. This helps us discover unknown elements by being able to see what
colors, along with the quantity of the colors, are present in an element. This technique aligns
with Bohr’s model of the atom because it is based off of what happens when a photon is
released from a previously excited electron.

Part 1 Results:
Light purple/green
Unknown 1
Unknown 2
Table 1: Substance and Flame Color
Part 1 Discussion:
The purpose of part 1 was to discover what affects flame color with the intent of identifying the
two unknown substances.
Because our eyes can only classify colors into a limited selection, the accuracy of the table
above is questionable. As a result, trying to label Unknown 1 proved to be difficult because,
based on Table 1, the first unknown could contain NaCl (Sodium Chlorine). However, it could
also contain LiCl (Lithium Chlorine), CaCl2 (Calcium Chlorine2), or CaSO4 (Calcium Sulfur
Oxygen4) because I classified them all under the vague term ‘orange.’ Based off of the
information collected, it was difficult to confidently associate unknown 1 with a known
element. Nevertheless, since the majority of possible elements recently listed involved chlorine,
we can conclude that chlorine produces an orange color, and the likelihood that Unknown 1
contains chlorine is favorable. This answers the question that, yes, anions (non-metals) can
determine the color of the flame.
Unknown 2 proved to be slightly more accurate because I labeled it more specifically as a
pink/lavender color. From here we can deduce that Unknown 2 could contain elements of
CuCl2, KCl, and/or K2So4 because these were all noted as having either pink or lavender color
outputs. Even though we can be more specific in narrowing down which elements Unknown 2
could contain, it is also more difficult because the solutions possibly related to the unknown do
not have any common elements. For this reason, unknown 2 shall remained unknown until this
lab process is repeated and more detailed and reliable results are produced.

My confidence in these answers is not abundant because of the lack of specificity. For the
future I would definitely propose we take detailed notes on the color, and also possibly video it
for future reference.
Even though everyone sees colors differently, we still see the same intensity of color from case
to case. This means that even though the colors in the table might not be completely accurate,
we still recognize similar colors, and can therefore semi-accurately detect the unknowns.
Part 2 Results:

Figure 1: Intensity vs Wavelength for Unknown 3
Smallest peak: Wavelength 605.7; intensity 0.030
Wavelength 670.8; intensity 0.037

Figure 2: Intensity vs Wavelength for LiCl

Largest peak: Wavelength 772.3; intensity 0.268
Wavelength 683.0; intensity 0.049

Wavelength 670.8; intensity 0.074

Figure 3: Intensity vs Wavelength for SrCl2
Smallest peak: Wavelength 590.0 nm; intensity 0.023 Largest Peak: Wavelength 683.0; intensity 0.100
Wavelength 605.7; intensity 0.044

Wavelength 670.8; intensity 0.072

Figure 4: Intensity vs Wavelength for KCL
Smallest peak: Wavelength 589.2; intensity 0.027 Largest peak: Wavelength 773.1; intensity 0.737

Figure 5: Intensity vs Wavelength for NaCl
Smallest Wavelength 586; Intensity 0.011

Largest Wavelength 592; intensity 0.866

Part 2 Discussion:
The purpose of part 2 was to record wavelengths for four known substances and one unknown
substance, along with develop skills with the intent of identifying the unknown substance.
I have reason to believe the unknown is SrCl2 because it had a similar intensity and wavelength
reading, and also had the same number of peaks present in the Intensity vs. Wavelength
graphs. The reason the numbers are not identical between SrCl2 and Unknown 3 is because we
were not always able to capture the moment each hit the highest peak, and the height and
intensity of the peak also depended on how close we held the spectrophotometer to the flame,
how close we held it to the melamine foam, when we captured the screenshot, and so on. All
other tests came out with only one major peak and maybe a smaller mini-wavelength, so by
process of elimination, Unknown 3 has a high probability of containing elements from the SrCl2
solution mainly because the chance it contains elements from the other solutions is not
probable. More specifically, Unknown 3 could contain chlorine because the other samples of
substances that also contained chlorine had similar peak levels (see Figure 2). This analysis
comparison was more predictable and less risky to come to a conclusion because the options
were more limited and the differences were more pronounced. Since we did not have a sample
containing two known metals, we were unable to test detection of metal in the presence of
another. Given our current knowledge, evidence, and circumstances, we have insufficient data
to prove we can detect metals in the presence of other metals.
Using the spectrophotometer to graph the peaks directly correlates to the emission spectrum
lines we see through a spectroscope because whenever we see a peak on the graph, that
correlates to the most prominent colors we can see through the spectroscope.
Part 3 Results:

Figure 6: Emission Spectrum of Unknown A

Figure 7: Emission Spectrum of Unknown B

Figure 8: Emission Spectrum of Unknown C-

Figure 9: Known Spectra of Elements Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium and Oxygen

Figure 10: Known Spectra of Elements Mercury and Lithium

Figure 11: Known Spectra of Elements Calcium, Argon, Sodium and Krypton
Part 3 Discussion:
The purpose of part three was to practice using a spectroscope while analyzing the unknown
samples to try and identify the samples.
For part three we looked through a spectroscope into unknown elements and colored in on a
spectrum scale where we saw the colored wavelengths. Since we have only been given normal
eyesight, the lines we see through the spectroscope are only the most prominent ones and not
the entire emission spectrum for that element, so when referencing to known spectrums we
must not be distracted by the multitude of other lines present, but focus on the most
noticeable lines that we saw through the spectroscope. I have reason to believe that Unknown
A (see Figure 6) is Hydrogen because of the three visible wavelengths which coincide with the

known spectrum wavelengths of hydrogen more than any of the other elements. They share a
red wavelength at around 700nm, a blue/green wavelength around 480nm, and a purple one
around 420nm (see Figure 9). Using the same logic as in Unknown A, Unknown B (see Figure 7)
is likely mercury. The sample of mercury depicted a range of wavelengths, from a red
wavelength around 700nm, to a purple wavelength around 400nm. These coincide with the
known spectrum of mercury. Finally, it is probable that Unknown C (see Figure 8) is Lithium. A
green wavelength of the sample matches to the known spectrum at around 500nm, the red at
around 660nm, blue around 460nm, and a yellow/orange wavelength at around 570nm.
My confidence in these results is visually strong, but since the known spectrums didn’t have
specific numbers, the numerical data confidence is weak. I trusted my eyes that they would
recognize the location of the wavelengths of the known elements and that they would know
when the sample coincides with the actual spectrum.
It is possible to detect two elements in the same chart, if the known spectrums are substantially
different. Reference Figures 9 and 11 and identify Sodium and Hydrogen. We could detect
these two through one sample because the known spectrums noticeably differentiate from
each other. However, this will not always be the case of both elements in the sample have
similar emission spectrums.
Spectroscopy has been used to prove the existence of a previously unknown element, such as
cesium. In cesium’s case, scientists studied a sample of mineral water, using a
spectrophotometer, and removed the elements they already knew. What they were left with
was cesium. This exact technique was not used in this lab, but just goes to show what kind of
impact spectroscopy has had on our scientific history and no doubt our scientific future.

Honors Extension:
Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS) is a technique developed to determine the
concentration of a certain element and the element composition. AAS uses the absorption of
light to determine the concentration of the atoms. To find this, all electrons are excited to a
certain set quantity of energy. This amount of energy is specific to electron reactions in a
specific element. Since we know the amount of energy we put in, and we can measure the
outcome of photons, it is possible to calculate how many of these transitions took place,
therefore getting a signal that is proportional to the concentration of the element being
Atomic emission spectroscopy looks at the emission spectrum after light/thermal has been
introduced and photons have left the electrons. On the other hand, atomic absorption

spectroscopy sets a level of energy to which the electrons are excited to, then the atom
substance is monitored and analyzed for what level of reaction is present. AAS has been used to
study elements in solution, such as in this lab, but also can determine solid samples used in
clinical and environmental analysis, as well as in pharmaceutical research.