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Multichannel and single-channel flame photometers: Know the difference with Flame Photometry

Flame photometry is used around the world every day within a number of different industries. But what is the difference between multichannel and single-channel, here's how you can know the difference.


It is the process of measuring the intensity of light emitted when an element is exposed to a flame, using a wavelength of a colour.


Based on flame testing, a flame photometer is a scientific instrument which is generally used to measure the concentration of ionic species in aqueous solutions.


It is common practice to denote a style of flame photometer with respect to the number of channels they have.


However, what is meant by a channel can be a little vague if you are not familiar with flame photometers.



BWB LCD Screen
The different channels in a BWB Flame Photometer

What is a channel in flame photometry?


A channel is found close to the burner head. It acts as a vector pathway for light to use to focus the beams of light from the flame to the array of photodiodes where the conversion of light into packets of electrons - and, thus, data - occurs.


At BWB-Tech, our flame photometers operate with up to five channels of detection. Each channel is aimed at a photodiode measuring a unique wavelength.


The wavelengths these photodiodes are set to detect are selected based upon the emission lines of the customers’ ions of choice that are possible to detect.


Within reason, the photodiodes you can select for metal analysis in a BWB-Tech flame photometer are customisable for your specific needs.



Can you have multiple channels of the same ion?


BWB-Tech offers the option to have multiple channels of the same metal ion to improve the averaging and, therefore, precision of your analytical methodology.


Our standard edition flame photometer, The BWB XP Flame Photometer, comes with the following ion channels as standard:


● Sodium

● Potassium

● Calcium

● Lithium

● Barium



How does a single-channel flame photometer differ from a multi-channel flame photometer?


A single-channel flame photometer would be an example of the early editions of the photometer.


The earliest example of this is a length of platinum wire being used as a conduit for water to steadily flow down into a flame.


This was then compared with a set of slides that were calibrated to a set of delicately-crafted calibration standards.


Due to there only being a single ion measurable at a time as well as a single “channel” for the analyst to observe the flame, the instrument is a single-channel flame photometer.