top of page
  • The BWB Team

Flame Photometer & Bodily Fluids: What can it teach us?

While this article is not intended as a biology lesson, the use of flame photometers in the biological sciences is of paramount importance. Diagnostic medicine relies on fast determination of ionic metal ratios in bio-samples for life-saving treatment research.

Those samples can be blood, saliva, urine, CSF (cerebrospinal fluid), gastric juices, or virtually any liquid the body can produce.  Indeed, methodologies have been developed to detect these important metals in biopsy samples or…um…solids produced by the body’s waste system.

The presence of Sodium, Potassium, Lithium, Calcium, and Barium are all detectable by flame photometry.  Sodium, potassium, and calcium imbalances can result in death, of course, since these are the electrolytes of our bodies’ electrical architecture and the controllers of the on/off and intensity switches (channels) of functions like cardiac muscle contraction processes (heartbeat).  They are what allow our nerves to send all the vital signals that let us function.

Barium and lithium have no known natural biological role, but lithium in a specific molecular form (lithium carbonate) can be used to ease bipolar disorders, mania, depression, mood disorders, and some other brain dysfunctions.  In some cases, it may act to reduce suicidal ideation.

Some psychopharmacology experts entertain the idea that the lithium found in tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, nutmeg, and many other foods provide lithium in a micronutrient profile sufficient to ward off more serious conditions from developing in otherwise average people, as in this NIH study.

Barium is considered nontoxic for humans.  It is used because it shows up well on X-rays, allowing imaging of soft tissues like the gastrointestinal tract, or the bowels.

The point is that medical science needs to know when these metals are present, and in what amounts, to determine if they are sufficient to keep us alive, or too plentiful and threatening that status.  Flame photometry can offer the fastest route to that answer.


Animals have bodily fluids, too.  Collecting fish, frogs, turtles, insects, and so on, in lakes, rivers, and swamps is extremely revealing to environmental biologists about contamination and pollution of the natural habitats that keep our planet running and in balance.  Similarly, terrestrial creatures can tell us about land use (or abuse).

Best of all, you don’t need to kill the sample providers—they can be catch-and-release.  It is to the researchers’ advantage to return them to their habitat to continue acting as field agents collecting more environmental information for them.  Dart guns are less harmful than bullets, as most animal activists will agree.

Detecting unexpected increases early provides the opportunity to find pollution violators and solve problems before they become toxic hazards.  This is not just for wildlife, of course, but the cascade that will eventually impact us, the humans.

The Takeaway

Ultimately flame photometry is an incredibly useful science.  It is easy to master, with only a slight learning curve, allowing someone to become competent in just one day.

Our unique and tough portable units are unlike any other company’s offering.  They can operate in the field as easily as in the lab.  In situ testing is just as reliable as laboratory work.

Whether your customers, research studies, or contractors provide samples or hire you to assess environments, BWB has just the equipment you need to succeed.

Give us a call today and let us set you on the road to success.  We have the tools that you need, and we would love to hear from you to help turn you into the expert provider that customers will seek out!


bottom of page