An elemental analyzer (EA) is a device that measures the quantities of specific elements in a material. For example, if you want to know how much nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur are in your soil, you’d use an elemental analyzer.

Elemental analyzers are excellent additions to regular mass spectrometers. The process of measuring the amounts of different elements requires that the sample is converted to a gas. Typically, once the elemental analyzer is done with it, the gas is released as exhaust. With a mass spectrometer, the gas can then be measured for different isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur or whatever you’re interested in.

This can be of interest because you can use this to better understand where carbon is coming from in a soil. Or, if you’re measuring plant or animal materials, you can determine metabolic patterns and food web interactions. On the whole, you can learn a lot about environment and behavior from relatively easy measurements.

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