Absorption spectrum

Absorption spectrum

A material's absorption spectrum shows the fraction of incident electromagnetic radiation absorbed by the material over a range of frequencies. An absorption spectrum is, in a sense, the opposite of an emission spectrum.Every chemical element has absorption lines at several particular wavelengths corresponding to the differences between the energy levels of its atomic orbitals. For example, an object that absorbs blue, green and yellow light will appear red when viewed under white light. Absorption spectra can therefore be used to identify elements present in a gas or liquid. This method is used in deducing the presence of elements in stars and other gaseous objects which cannot be measured directly.


Atoms are defined by the arrangement of electrons in atomic orbitals. An electron in some orbital may be excited to a more energetic orbital by absorbing exactly one photon which has energy equal to the energy difference of the two orbitals.

Molecular states are defined by the molecule's modes of vibration and rotation. These vibrational and rotational modes are quantized, similar to the atomic orbitals, and may be excited by absorbing single photons.

In both the atomic and molecular cases, the excited states do not persist: after some random amount of time, the atoms and molecules revert back to their original, lower energy state. In atoms, the excited electron returns to a lower orbital, emitting a photon. In molecules, the vibrational or rotational mode decays, also emitting a photon.

When this decay occurs, the photon produced is not necessarily emitted in the same direction as the original photon. The most common angle of this has been shown to be about 45 degrees of the original photonFact|date=April 2007. This applies to any situation where gases lie between a light source and an observer: the observer will see gaps in the spectrum of the light corresponding to the wavelengths of the photons which were absorbed. These gaps occur despite the re-emission of photons because the re-emitted photons are equally likely to travel in all directions, and it is statistically unlikely to travel along the original path to the observer. These gaps appear as black lines in an image of the spectrum.

ee also

* Fraunhofer lines
* Spectroscopy
* Absorption spectroscopy
* Densitometry
* cf. Emission spectrum
* X-ray absorption spectroscopy
* Absorption (electromagnetic radiation)

External links

* [http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr162/lect/sun/spectrum.html Solar absorption spectrum]
* [http://learningobjects.wesleyan.edu/projects/project.php?loid=233 Visible Absorption Spectrum Simulation]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Absorption spectrum — Spectrum Spec trum, n.; pl. {Spectra}. [L. See {Specter}.] 1. An apparition; a specter. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] 2. (Opt.) (a) The several colored and other rays of which light is composed, separated by the refraction of a prism or other means, and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • absorption spectrum — n an electromagnetic spectrum in which a decrease in intensity of radiation at specific wavelengths or ranges of wavelengths characteristic of an absorbing substance (as chlorophyll) is manifested esp. as a pattern of dark lines or bands compare… …   Medical dictionary

  • absorption spectrum — n. a spectrum with a pattern of dark bands or lines created when light passes through a gas or liquid into a spectroscope: the chemical elements of the gas or liquid absorb specific wavelengths of light creating a unique pattern which can be used …   English World dictionary

  • absorption spectrum — sugerties spektras statusas T sritis fizika atitikmenys: angl. absorption spectrum; darkline spectrum vok. Absorptionsspektrum, n rus. спектр поглощения, m pranc. spectre d’absorption, m …   Fizikos terminų žodynas

  • absorption spectrum — absorbcijos spektras statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Per tiriamą medžiagą praėjusios spinduliuotės sugėrimo intensyvumo priklausomybė (ppr. grafinė) nuo bangos ilgio ar dažnio. atitikmenys: angl. absorption spectrum; darkline rus. спектр… …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • absorption spectrum — Spectrum of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation (usually visible and UV light) absorbed by substance. Absorption is determined by existence of atoms that can be excited from their ground state to an excited state by absorption of energy… …   Dictionary of molecular biology

  • absorption spectrum — /əbˈsɔpʃən ˌspɛktrəm/ (say uhb sawpshuhn .spektruhm) noun the spectrum observed when light or other electromagnetic radiation is passed through an unexcited gas and examined with a spectroscope. See emission spectrum …   Australian English dictionary

  • absorption spectrum — noun the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation that has passed through a medium that absorbed radiation of certain wavelengths (Freq. 1) • Hypernyms: ↑spectrum …   Useful english dictionary

  • absorption spectrum — noun Date: 1869 an electromagnetic spectrum in which a decrease in intensity of radiation at specific wavelengths or ranges of wavelengths characteristic of an absorbing substance is manifested especially as a pattern of dark lines or bands …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • absorption spectrum — Physics. the spectrum formed by electromagnetic radiation that has passed through a medium in which radiation of certain frequencies is absorbed. [1875 80] * * * …   Universalium