Spectrometer Analysis and Burning Ion Solutions

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Updated on Nov 21, 2012

Grade Level: 10th to 12th; Type: Physical Science/Chemistry


In this experiment you will use a spectrometer to analyze the patterns of light emitted by burning ion solutions.

Research Questions:

  • Why do different elements emit different patterns of light when burned?
  • Is it possible to identify an element by the pattern of light it emits when burned?
  • Fireworks come in a multitude of colors. Compare and contrast the creation of fireworks with the burning of elements. Are they the same or are they different?


  • Bunsen burner (see safety precautions in references below)
  • 5 splints of wood
  • Spectrometer (see directions for use in references below)
  • 5 ion solutions: Li+, Na+, K+, Rb+, Cs+
  • An assistant

Experimental Procedure

  1. Dab a splint of wood into an ion solution.
  2. Have an assistant hold the splint of wood in the flame from the bunsen burner so that the ion solution burns.
  3. While the ion solution burns, quickly use the spectrometer to analyze the colors emitted.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 with the other four ion solutions.

Terms/Concepts: spectrometer, ion, element, bunsen burner


Ions: http://www.wisc-online.com/Objects/ViewObject.aspx?ID=gch3604

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