A spectrometer is a widely-used scientific tool for many disciplines, including biology, chemistry, agriculture and more.
There are several kinds of spectrometers, each type with far-reaching applications and unique strengths. Mass spectrometers measure the mass-to-charge ratio and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometers measure nuclear resonant frequencies. Optical spectrometers, the most common type, measure the variation in a substance or object’s light properties to break down its elemental components. Spectrometers can measure light properties up close in controlled environments or from far distances like outer space.
An optical spectrometer has three specific functions. These devices produce a spectrum, then disperse it and measure the intensities of the spectrum’s lines. Every measured substance is unique and creates distinct light patterns that serve as identifying markers. The spectrometer reads the wavelength and transmits the information to a computer. This process allows scientists to analyze a substance of unknown origin in the spectrometer and perform a comparison to determine its composition.
What are Common Spectrometer Applications?
There are several types of optical spectrometers with different scientific applications. The spectrophotometer or UV-VIS measures light intensity with wavelength. Chemists and biologists performing research often use spectrophotometers to measure the spectrum of light absorption through a sample. The scientist scans the excitation monochromator and captures the change in light intensity on the detector. The process repeats with a sample to calculate the absorption spectrum.
Spectrofluorometers measure fluorescence emission from a given sample, which is why scientists often call these devices fluorescence spectrometers. A spectrofluorometer is typically a benchtop instrument, while a fluorescence spectrometer is larger and more powerful. The spectrofluorometer typically measures excitation and emission spectra.
When a molecule scatters the light from an intense laser, the Raman spectrometer measures the scattered light. While the majority of the light is irrelevant to the scientist’s purposes because it’s the same wavelength, a small percentage scatters at different wavelengths and creates Raman Scatter.
What Are the Benefits of Spectrometers?
There are benefits unique to each type of optical spectrometer:
- Spectrophotometer: This device is one of the most powerful quantitative analysis tools in the life sciences. Spectrophotometers can analyze proteins, metabolites and nucleic acids for various applications.
- US-VIS spectrometer: Spectrophotometers are especially helpful for astronomers and chemists because these tools are easy to use and give highly accurate readings.
- Raman spectrometer: This equipment is quick, non-destructive, requires no preparation and allows scientists to examine solids, liquids or gases.
Contact Spectrecology to Learn More
Searching for spectrometry research tools? You can trust Spectrecology for a custom-built solution. We pioneered the world’s first fiber optic spectrometer in 1989. Over the last 32 years, our spectrometers have probed the bottom of the ocean and performed analysis on Mars with more than 3,000 miniature fiber optic spectrometers.
We currently offer applications in the US-VIS, NIR and MIR spectral regions and optical chemical sensors for pH and O2.