Evaluation of a second derivative UV/visible spectroscopy technique for nitrate and total nitrogen analysis of wastewater samples

Michelle A. Ferree, Robert D. Shannon

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168 Scopus citations


A method for nitrate analysis based on second derivative UV/Visible spectroscopy was developed by Simal et al. (1985: Simal J., Lage M. A., and Iglesias I. (1985) Second derivative ultraviolet spectroscopy and sulfamic acid method for determination of nitrates in water. J. Assoc. Analyt. Chem. 68, 962-964) and Suzuki and Kuroda (1987: Suzuki, N. and Kuroda R. (1987) Direct simultaneous determination of nitrate and nitrite by ultraviolet second-derivative spectrophotometry. Analyst 112, 1077-1079), and later modified for the analysis of total nitrogen in aqueous samples of varying nitrate:organic nitrogen ratios (Crumpton et al., 1992: Crumpton W. G., Isenhart T. M. and Mitchell P. D. (1992) Nitrate and organic N analyses with second-derivative spectroscopy. Limnol. Oceanogr. 37, 907-913). The procedure uses the second derivative of the absorption spectrum for nitrate (NO-3), which has a peak at ~224 nm that is proportional to the NO-3 concentration. Samples for total N analysis are first oxidized to NO-3 by persulfate digestion. The objectives of this study were to: (1) test the accuracy and precision of the second derivative method through the use of NIST-traceable wastewater check samples; (2) determine whether the second derivative method for nitrate analysis can be used for wastewater samples and whether the method compares favorably with other currently used nitrate analysis methods; and (3) use the method to analyze wastewater samples containing a range of nitrate and total nitrogen concentrations. Our results indicated that the method needed to be modified to include a longer digestion time (60 min) and dilution of samples prior to digestion (if needed). With the modified method, nitrogen recoveries were not significantly different (P≥0.05) from samples with known N concentrations. In addition, nitrate concentrations in constructed wetland and wastewater samples analyzed by both second derivative spectroscopy and ion chromatography were not significantly different. Total nitrogen concentrations in wastewater samples also compared favorably to the same samples analyzed by Kjeldahl digestion. The method is faster, simpler, requires smaller sample volumes, and generates less waste than many EPA-approved methods of N analysis, and may offer a suitable alternative to current methods for analysis of nitrate and total N in wastewater samples. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-332
Number of pages6
JournalWater Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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