There Are Several Variations of Spectrometers Around 

There Are Several Variations of Spectrometers Around 

The spectrometer is a common scientific instrument used to view and analyze a wide array of given characteristics for a substance. Photocells allow for the comparison of different wavelengths even at different times. The use of spectrometers isn’t limited to visible radiation (matching the human eye), which helps attain a precision of ± 0.1% to establish suitable concentrations, offering rapid and simultaneous results for several components. There’s often confusion between spectrometers and spectrophotometers. More exactly, a spectrophotometer only measures the intensity of electromagnetic radiation, meaning that it’s just like a spectrometer but features a light source for sample illumination. 

There are many different types of spectrometers, but the most common ones include: 

Mass Spectrometers 

A mass spectrometer is an analytical tool used to measure the mass and electric charge of a particle, i.e., the mass-to-charge ratio. The idea is that moving ions may be diverted by electric and magnetic fields. As a rule, mass spectrometers are used to pinpoint unknown materials and substances, gauge known compounds, and examine the connecting structure and chemical reactivity of molecules.  A sample is inserted into the instrument and ionized to eliminate electrons and create positively charged ions (cations); at times, the sample molecules are broken into tiny ionized pieces. The atoms and molecules in the sample are assailed by a stream of electrons, and some of the collisions are strong enough to eliminate one or more particles to make positive ions. 

The development of mass spectrometry has been accentuated by an augmenting number of applications in science and technology. Mass spectrometers are used in various industries, including but not limited to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, food and beverage, and environmental testing, not to mention research and academic institutions. Some types of ionization sources and mass analyzers make a perfect match. For example, the pulsed nature of many laser systems is ideal for time-of-flight mass analyzers that rely on electric fields for mass discrimination. What happens is that a short emission of ions is released from the source, and their arrival time is recorded after crossing a distance long enough to sort out the various speeds. 

UV Spectrometers 

An ultraviolet (UV) spectrometer measures how much light a chemical substance absorbs, so the results depend on the electrons in the chemical bonds of the sample. The amount of light absorbed is contingent upon the light’s wavelength and the molecule’s structure. Owing to its versatility and simplicity, UV spectrometry is deployed in nearly every laboratory worldwide for scientific and practical applications. The most notable applications are medical diagnostics, biochemistry research, food science, water and air analysis, and industrial applications. Attention must be paid to the fact that there is different spectroscopy, such as infrared spectroscopy, which will be discussed later on. 


A colorimeter is a device used to establish the concentration of a colored compound in a solution by measuring the absorbance of light waves. Basically, it compares the amount of light getting through a solution with the amount that can get through a sample. A scientist produces the calibration curve by examining various standard solutions of known concentrations. It goes without saying that the higher the concentration of colorant in the solution, the higher the absorption of light. The entire visible spectrum is used, so the change from yellow to red, for example, produces an increase in the wavelength absorbed. Mixing the two complementary colors of light gives white light. 

Color spectrometers are useful in textile manufacturing, color printing, and food control. The data can be used to adjust the color components in a recipe to enhance eye appeal, which is an important part of the presentation. When correlated with other laboratory and quality control data, color becomes an integral clinical data component. Light originating from an LED light source traverses a corvette containing a solution sample, some of the incoming light being absorbed by the solution; the light of lower intensity strikes a photodiode. The oldest and simplest color comparator is the Nessler tube, which is available in tall and short form, and often used to minimize the differences in the subjective impression of color of the substance under analysis.

IR Spectrometers

An infrared (IR) spectrometer measures the response of a sample to infrared light, commonly used to identify materials, including organic polymers. Operating procedures aren’t available because they depend on instrument design. An IR spectrometer relies on much smaller energy absorbances occurring between vibrational and rotational states. For a vibrational mode in a molecule to be IR active, it must be linked to changes in the permanent dipole. If the molecule is symmetrical, it can be observed only in the Raman spectrum, which functions above and below the frequency of the incident light. IR spectroscopy is paramount in life and environmental sciences, medical applications, and even in archaeological and cultural heritage. 

Atomic Spectrometers 

An atomic spectrometer assesses the concentration of elements in a liquid sample based on the energy absorbed from specific wavelengths of light. Atomic spectrometers fall into two categories: emission and absorbance. Regardless of the instrument used, the working principle is the same – a flame burns the sample to separate it into atoms of ions and an emission instrument identifies the wavelengths of light released by the atoms. Some spectrometers are equipped with a turret that can hold several lamps to reduce the downtime between samples. Atomic spectroscopy is widely used in geology, environmental chemistry, and soil science, among others. 

To sum up, you must be aware of some basic parameters to be able to choose a suitable spectrometer, namely wavelength range and resolution. An IR spectrometer won’t list the wavelength range and resolution in nanometers but rather in terms of inverse centimeters. Avoid sources of stray light, such as ambient light, light from imperfect optical components, and order overlap. Your final choice of the spectrometer will depend on size, cost, speed, sensitivity, dynamic range, linearity, thermal stability, and robustness. Adequate maintenance is the essence to ensure a long life and accurate use. Cleaning should be done with a soft cloth dampened with water and mild detergent.

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