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topic 10547

AA vs ICP for water and metal analysis


Q. AA or ICP which is better for water/ metal analysis? Please consider cost, ease of use, accuracy, and service.


Carol B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- New York, New York


A. Hi, Carol,

If you can get hold of it, please see "Fine Lines: Printed Circuit Board Queries" by Mike McChesney in the March 1993 issue of Plating & Surface Finishing as it was written to answer your question. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. The answer is it depends.

Accuracy ICP beats AA

AA ppm ICP sub ppm e.g.,Cd AA about 0.5 ppm ICP 0.01 ppm are approx. limits.

Cost: AA beats ICP hands down. Lower running costs, lower equipment costs.

Ease of use - about the same.

Support - depends on your supplier.

What do you want to do with the equipment?

Plating bath analysis - AA

Effluent - I would go AA and use voltammetry to get Cd done.

Please let me know if this helped

Martin Trigg-Hogarth
Martin Trigg-Hogarth
surface treatment shop - Stroud, Glos, England


Q. Thanks for the response. We are a small lab (with a limited budget) and we want to buy one of these two equipments for water and wastewater analysis- metals. I appreciate the responses!

Now that you have more information , what do you think?

Which is better? AA or ICP Note: we probably could afford the ICP with the work we have the potential to get. Cost is, however, one of the factors to consider.

Let me know what you think, guys.


Carol B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- New York, New York

Practical Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectroscopy
from Abe Books



A. Carol, one other factor to consider in your evaluation is the number of metals that you wish to test for. If you have several processes or metals to be analyzed, the ICP is significantly faster. Current ICP models will be able to analyze 100+ different metals within minutes. To perform the same function with an AA would take hours. At this point, you need to weigh your needs and wants to determine which instrument would best suit your company.

Best of Luck.

Ira Donovan, M.S.F.
Kansas City, Missouri


A. Martin gave you a good summary. ICP-MS costs more to buy and upkeep is a LOT more. A significantly more complex machine. Check the CFR for wastewater analysis. If ion chromatography is allowed, it would be another option.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


thumbs up signThanks so much for the informative responses. Your answers weigh in our determination of the instrument that best suits our needs. It is nice to see that the scientific community has reached out to me on this. I really appreciate all the responses and we will carefully consider them in our evaluation of each instrument.

On behalf of our small group, thanks.

Carol B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- New York

April 2, 2008

A. I agree with all the previous comments. However, Martins comments regarding voltammetry seemed to get passed over all too quickly. Martin has done a lot of work on voltammetry in the past I am sure that it was not his intention for this technique to be overlooked!

Voltammetry may lack some of the versatility of the other techniques but remains a powerful option for our industry. Modern equipment is compact, considerably smaller than either AAS or ICP and has considerably cheaper set-up and running costs.

The number of test samples to be tested may be a deciding factor! I believe AAS, ICP and IC would provide for better automation and throughput of samples.

I hope this may be of some help.

Paul French
laboratory director - Burnham-on-Sea, UK

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