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5 Ways to Make Flow Injection Analysis a More Approachable Topic for Students

Usama Attiq
Teaching with Labster

Introduction: Flow Injection Analysis

These days, laboratories use advanced instrumental analytical methods to deliver high accuracy and precise results. Flow injection analysis (FIA) is a branch of chemistry that deals with injecting the chemical sample into another reagent at a low flow rate. When the sample is passed through the coiling reactor, different methods such as chromatography, UV spectroscopy, and biosensors can be applied to the product. Additionally, it is an effective method for the automated analysis of samples.

In flow injection analysis, an analyte sample is injected into the solution. Before reaching the detector, it mixes with another reagent. Flow injection analysis is a rapid technique to analyze several samples. It is an example of a continuous flow analyzer, so gradually introduce the sample in the reagent solution to pass it toward the detector. This technique is effective to reduce the burden of waste removal. Additionally, flow injection analysis provides highly accurate and precise results.

Several aspects of the flow injection analysis can be problematic for students. At Labster, we compiled all the complexities that make flow injection analysis challenging to understand. We provide five different methods that help learners to understand the topic. At the end of the topic, we will explain why virtual lab simulation is important for teachers to convey the lecture to their students.  

flow injection analysis virtual lab

Figure: An image of a detector from the Labster’s virtual lab of flow injection analysis

Why flow injection analysis can be tricky to learn

Three main reasons make learning flow injection analysis a tough topic to remember.

1. You need to have knowledge of spectrophotometry

When students learn about the flow injection analysis technique, the most common detector used in this process is a spectrophotometer. The spectrophotometer is a device that is used to measure the intensity of light. Spectrophotometry is a process that is based on the absorption of light by different substances. It is mainly used to determine the concentration of molecules in the sample. Sometimes, it is difficult for students to understand the basic concept of spectrophotometry. Additionally, students need to learn about the principle and working of spectrophotometry which can be a hard task for them.

2. It’s complicated

The main substance which is used as the sample in flow injection analysis is caffeine. In this topic, students need to learn about caffeine's physical, biological, and chemical properties. Moreover, caffeine has a complex structure that can be difficult for students to remember. Students avoid learning about flow injection analysis because they find this topic boring and time-consuming.

3. It’s heavy content

In flow injection analysis, you need to learn about the basic principle, steps, apparatus advantages, applications, uses, different kinds of detectors and their purposes, and standard curves. If we talk about the kinds of detectors there are two main types of detectors used in flow injection analysis. These are electrochemical detectors and optical detectors. The spectrophotometer is an example of an optical detector. Students do not like learning flow injection analysis because the content is too heavy. They may become confused because of the several terms used in it.

5 ways to make flow injection analysis a more approachable topic to understand

Since we are familiar with the complexities that can make flow injection analysis a difficult topic for students, here are five ways to make flow injection analysis an easier and simpler topic for students to understand.

1. People behind that science

Ruzicka and Hansen invented flow injection analysis (FIA) in 1975. In the beginning, the flow injection analysis resembled segmented flow analysis. It is a simple, versatile, and popular technique that takes place in modern analytical chemistry. At the start, the flow injection analysis technique was used in clinical and environmental fields. This method uses a very small quantity of samples and reagents to get the results.

2. Basic knowledge of flow injection analysis

The apparatus of the flow of injection analysis consists of several components. It includes an automatic pipette, peristaltic pump, inserting sample, mixing coils, detector, and waste container. It is important for students to learn the basic function of each part present in the flow injection analysis.

  • The first main component of flow injection analysis is an automatic pipette which can also be used for several analytical devices. It makes the flow injection analysis method can handle many samples.

  • The next part is a peristaltic pump used to create the flow. The flow produced by the peristaltic pump can be continuous and discontinuous. There are small spaces between the pump, so the samples cannot mix together. This is the main reason that flow injection analysis produces more accurate results.

  • Then, the introduction of the sample into the solvent is begun. The slim tubes are used for this purpose.

  • You can also adjust the length and diameter of the mixing coil. It is important to control samples' length, diameter, and flow to ensure that the substances in the sample are separated.

  • In the last step of flow injection analysis, the detector is placed that handles the small quantities of sample. If you need to analyze the color samples, spectrometry can be used as the detector. The detector is placed at the end of the mixing coil. Different kinds of detectors can be used according to the required sample. For instance, if the chemical substance does not possess color, you can add the reagent that can create the color in the chemical substance. If you need to measure the concentration of nitrate, an ion-selective electrode is used as the detector. 

process of fia

Figure: An image of the process of flow injection analysis from Labster theory. 

3. Applications of flow injection analysis

The flow injection analysis is a process mainly used for quality control purposes. It helps to improve the precisions because of the manual involvement of sample preparation and detection method. The cost of flow injection analysis is minimum, so it is a highly recommended method in laboratories. When students learn about the applications of flow injection analysis, it helps them to understand the topic more effectively.

  1. One of the main applications of flow injection analysis is turbidimetry. The principle of turbidimetric detection is based on light scattering. The sample solution uses turbidimetry and has solid suspensions. It is widely used for the measurement of light scattering in different insoluble precipitates including lead sulfates and barium.

  2. In flow injection analysis, the direct absorption of light method or a reagent is used to identify the results. For that, a UV-visible spectroscopy system or HPLC detector is usually used for this purpose.

  3. Flow injection analysis is effectively used in the field of biotechnology. Other applications of flow injection analysis are enzymatic detection immunoassay. It is also used in food, beverages, environmental, and pharmaceutical analysis.

  4. In flow injection analysis, the luminescence method provides a better result as compared with the absorption method. These fluorescence agents are used to increase the fluorescence of the compounds.

  5. Another application of flow injection analysis is that it can help measure the condition, volume, extent, and depletion of the forest's resources. It can also measure these changing conditions over time. 

Figure: An image shows the applications of flow injection analysis (FIA) from Labster virtual laboratory of flow injection analysis. 

4. Seeing is believing

Color diagrams are important in understanding tough topics like flow injection analysis. The diverse colors make the topic more attractive for students to learn. Additionally, the color images can be easier for students to memorize. Therefore, they can learn the topics by using color images. In flow injection analysis, you need to learn about mixing samples with reagents, the detector, the standard curve, and the apparatus. Color diagrams help remember these concepts.

The color image presented below shows the test tubes containing samples of different solutions in the flow injection analysis. These samples are injected into the reagents to mix with them. 


Figure: An image of samples of flow injection analysis method from virtual lab simulation of flow injection analysis

5. Use of virtual lab simulation

The virtual lab simulation is an advanced way to learn difficult topics like flow injection analysis. Labster provides 3D simulations with gamification elements like storytelling and a scoring system that help the students to understand the topic appropriately. These simulations are specially designed for teachers to convey the topic to their students in class.

Flow injection analysis GIF

Labster flow injection analysis simulation explains the measurement of caffeine in different samples through flow injection analysis, the importance of different components of flow injection analysis, advantages, preparation of sample dilutions and curves, interpret the results and determination of the concentration of caffeine sample with the help of standard curve.

Check out the Labster flow injection analysis simulation here, or get in touch to find out how you can start using virtual laboratory simulations with your students.

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