How do I get atomic emission spectra?

1 Answer


Emission spectra can be viewed by using diffraction grating.


The emission spectra of different elements are unique, so the spectra given off by hydrogen will be different than that of helium. The different colors of light produced by emission spectra of different elements allows them to be identified. One use of this technique is to identify the elements present in distant stars.

Basically, the process works like this. You need to add energy to the electrons of an atom. This will cause the electrons to jump from their ground state to a higher energy level (called a quantum leap). The electrons will eventually return to their ground state. When they jump from higher energy levels to lower energy levels a photon (light particle) is created. Some jumps produce photons which are associated with the visible spectrum.

Here is a look at emission (colors of light) produced by four different elements.

This video show uses diffraction grating to show the emission spectra of several elements including hydrogen, oxygen, neon and nitrogen.

Videos from: Noel Pauller

Use of a tool such as a spectroscope would allow someone to determine the different wavelengths each of these elements is giving off. The color you observe in the video is the sum total of all of the visible emissions from each element.

Hope this helps!