Online Encyclopedia Search Tool

Your Online Encyclopedia


Online Encylopedia and Dictionary Research Site

Online Encyclopedia Free Search Online Encyclopedia Search    Online Encyclopedia Browse    welcome to our free dictionary for your research of every kind

Online Encyclopedia


Spectroscopy is the study of spectra, ie. the dependence of a physical measure to frequency.

Spectroscopy is often used in physical and analytical chemistry for the identification of substances, through the spectrum emitted or absorbed. A device for recording a spectrum is a spectrometer. Spectroscopy can be classified according to the physical quantity which is measured or calculated or the measurement process.

Spectroscopy is also heavily used in astronomy.


Physical quantity measured

The type of spectroscopy depends on the physical quantity measured. Normally, the quantity that is measured is an amount or intensity of something.

Measurement process

Different types of spectroscopy use different measurement processes:

Two main types of spectroscopy

Absorption Spectroscopy uses the range of electromagnetic spectra in which a substance absorbs. It is more commonly used. The sample is vaporised and then light of a particular frequency is passed through the vapour. After calibration, the amount of absorption can be related to the concentrations of various metal ions. The method can be automated and is widely used to measure concentrations of ions such as sodium and calcium in blood. ( Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy )

Emission Spectroscopy uses the range of electromagnetic spectra in which a substance radiates. It requires the substance to be vaporised at high temperatures by placing it in a spark gap.

Common types of spectroscopy

X-ray spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography When X-rays of sufficient frequency (energy) interact with a substance, inner shell electrons in the atom are excited to outer empty orbitals, or they may be removed completely, ionizing the atom. The inner shell "hole" will then be filled by electrons from outer orbitals. The energy available in this de-excitation process is emitted as radiation (fluorescence) or will remove other less-bound electrons from the atom (Auger effect). The absorption or emission frequencies (energies) are characteristic of the specific atom. In addition, for a specific atom small frequency (energy) variations occur which are characteristic of the chemical bonding. With a suitable apparatus, these characteristic X-ray frequencies or Auger electron energies can be measured. X-ray absorption and emission spectroscopy is e.g. used in chemistry and material sciences to determine elemental composition and chemical bonding.

X-ray crystallography is a process in which X-rays are shone onto crystals at a certain angle. The wavelength of the X-rays is known and so the distance apart of the crystal planes can be calculated. Combining all information enables crystal structure to be detected.

Visible spectroscopy

Many atoms emit or absorb visible light. In order to obtain a fine line spectrum, the atoms must be in a gas phase. This means that the substance has to be vaporised. Spectrum is studied in absorption or emission.

UV spectroscopy

All atoms absorb in the UV region because photons are energetic enough to excite outer electrons. If the frequency is high enough, Photoionisation takes place.

Infra-red spectroscopy In Organic chemistry different types of interatomic bond vibrate at different frequencies in the infra-red part of the spectrum. The analysis of IR absorption spectra shows what type of bonds are present in the sample.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy NMR spectroscopy determines the different local environments of hydrogen or carbon atoms in an organic compound. This is used to determine the structure of the compound.

Photoemission spectroscopy

Less frequently used / combined spectroscopy

  • Raman spectroscopy uses the inelastic scattering of light to analyse vibrational and rotational modes of molecules. The resulting 'fingerprints' are an aid to analysis.
  • Fourier transform is an efficient method for collecting various spectra. The use of Fourier transform in spectroscopy is called Fourier transform spectroscopy. It is frequently applied to infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.
  • Spectroscopy of matter in situations where the properties are changing with time is called Time-resolved spectroscopy.
  • Spectroscopy using an AFM-based analytical technique is called Force spectroscopy.
  • Dielectric spectroscopy

See also

Last updated: 02-08-2005 08:36:59
Last updated: 03-05-2005 20:53:41