Capabilities and Limitations of Geochemical Instruments

Carmen Nezat, Eastern Washington University

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The purpose of this exercise is to understand the capability and limitations of several instruments (AA, ICP-OES, ICP-MS) used for geochemical analysis. Students compare and contrast the cost, detection limits, etc. of these instruments.

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This assignment has been used in an upper-level environmental geochemistry course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

unit conversions, understanding limit of detection

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity can be a stand alone exercise, or given at the beginning of the quarter before students start analyzing samples in the lab.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

limit of detection
EPA drinking water standards
types of analytical equipment used in geochemical analysis

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

analysis of information
evaluation of analytical equipment

Other skills goals for this activity

unit conversions

Description and Teaching Materials

Items needed for this activity:
Student assignment (file)
"Guide to Inorganic Analysis" by Perkin Elmer (file)

Student Assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 23kB Apr29 13)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students have difficulty understanding that the detection limit for a particular element should be lower (and not higher) than the actual or expected concentration in the sample.


Each question is worth a set number of points (which are written next to each question on the assignment). Total number of points for this assignment is 100.

References and Resources