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A Technical Description of Spectroscopy

1.0 Definition

Spectroscopy in its broad sense is the study of how matter reacts to


electromagnetic radiation (light). In chemistry, it usually describes the process of using
the principles of
spectroscopy to analyze
a sample by use of Figure 1. How a basic spectrophotometer works.
some type of
spectrophotometer. A
spectrophotometer is a
machine that measures
absorbance of light
after it passes through a
(typically liquid)
sample.

2.0 How It Works

All
spectrophotometers
have at least these three
basic parts: a light
source, a monochromator, and a detector. These pieces are used to produce light, cut
out all but one wavelength of that light, send that light through a sample, and detect how
much and what wavelength light was absorbed by the sample. This information can then
be used to determine the identity and/or concentration of the sample.

2.1 Light Source

The light source in a spectrophotometer is exactly what it sounds like. It produces


a broad set of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. Lots of different wavelengths of
light are produced by the lamp in order to observe the reaction of the sample to many
different wavelengths.

2.2 Monochromator

The monochromator is a tool that filters out all but one wavelength of light that
gets passed through it. It is composed of a slit where light enters the apparatus, a prism
that splits the light into many wavelengths, and a carefully positioned exit slit that will let
out only one wavelength of light. Ideally, the monochromator is adjustable so as to
control what wavelength is let through and towards the sample.

2.3 Detector

After passing through the sample (likely contained in a glass or quartz cuvette),
the specific wavelength of light is collected by a detector. This detector measures the
intensity of the light that passed through the sample and compares this value to the
intensity of the light before it passed through the sample. The resulting difference is an
absorbance value which is the final output of this machine.

3.0 Types of Spectroscopy

Two commonly used types of spectroscopy are UV spectroscopy and IR


spectroscopy. Both work in similar ways, but are used to get different types of results.

3.1 UV/Vis Spectroscopy

3.1.0 How It Works

UV/Vis spectroscopy utilizes light in the high-visible, low-ultraviolet spectrum.


When this range of frequency of light is passed through a sample, it energizes some
electrons in the molecules of the sample. A certain amount of energy is lost into the
sample. The attributes of the chemical being analyzed make it absorb a certain specific
wavelength better than any other wavelengths.

3.1.1 Uses
Figure 2. A graph of
absorbance related to
A graph of wavelength compared to wavelength of a particular
absorbance is shown in figure 2. By taking chemical
absorbance values of known concentrations, a
function relating concentration to absorbance can
be created. By plugging in an absorbance value
into this function, the output is the concentration.
This could be useful to beverage companies as a
means to ensure quality control and consistency in
product.

3.2 Infrared Spectroscopy

Figure 3. An IR readout of 2-
heptanone.
3.2.0 How It Works

Infrared (IR)
spectroscopy works in just
about the same way as the
UV variant but uses a lower
frequency of light. Atoms
stick together by chemical
bonds. These bonds vibrate
at specific frequency
depending on their type,
location, and type of atoms
involved in the bond. When
the wavelength of light
hitting the sample matches
the vibrational frequency, light is absorbed. If you graph wavelength and absorbance,
peaks are observed at specific wavelength values. ure 3 is a IR graph I created of what
was identified to be the chemical 2-heptanone. The writing above the two leftmost peaks
are the types of bonds associated with a peak there.

3.2.1 Uses

These peaks can be used to identify individual bonds in a molecule and therefore
provide evidence of what the substance being analyzed is. The intensity of the peaks is
related to concentration of the chemical and the location of peaks along the x-axis
indicate specific types of bonds. In a production setting, IR spectroscopy is a very
powerful tool in identifying adulterants in a sample that would not be acceptable in a
final product.

Works Cited

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Bruno Joseph. Pexels. Web.

Image sources for technical description


Reusch, William. UV Spectrum of an Organic Molecule. Digital image. Visible and
Ultraviolet Spectroscopy. MSU, 5 May 2013. Web.

IR Spec Readout of 2-heptanone, Renfrew Chem Lab. Personal photograph by author. 1


Oct. 2017.

Heda, Namrata. Components of UV-Visible Spectrophotometer. Digital image. B For


Biology. Blogspot, 24 July 2013. Web.