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Introduction to Spectroscopy
Lecture Date: January 18th, 2007
What is Spectroscopy?
The study of the interaction between radiation and
“Analytical spectroscopy”, as defined in this class,
covers applications of spectroscopy to chemical
History of Analytical Spectroscopy
1666: Isaac Newton (England) shows that white light
can be dispersed into constituent colors, and coins the
term “spectrum”
– Newton also produced the first “spectroscope” based on lenses,
a prism, and a screen
1800: W. Herschel and J. W. Ritter show that infrared
(IR) and ultraviolet (UV) light are part of the spectrum
1814: Joseph Fraunhofer noticed that the sun’s
spectrum contains a number of dark lines, developed
the diffraction grating
1859: G. Kirchoff obtains spectra of the elements,
explains the sun’s spectrum
The Visible Spectrum of the Sun
(Black lines are absorption by elements in the cooler outer region of the star)
Figure from National Optical Astronomy Observatory/Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy/National Science Foundation,
History of Analytical Spectroscopy
1870: J. C. Maxwell formalizes and combines the laws
of electricity and magnetism
 1900 to present: More than 25 Nobel prizes awarded to
spectroscopists, including:
– 1902: H. A. Lorentz and P. Zeeman
– 1919: J. Stark
– 1933: P. A. M. Dirac and E. Schrodinger
– 1945: W. Pauli
– 1999: A. Zewail
Introduction to Spectroscopy
 The electromagnetic
Each color you see is a
specific (narrow) range of
frequencies in this
Figures from NASA (
The Electromagnetic Spectrum
 Modern life (not just analytical spectroscopy) revolves
around the EM spectrum!
Properties of Electromagnetic Radiation
 Wave/particle duality
 Perpendicular E and B
Note – this figure
shows polarized
– E = electric field
– B = magnetic field
 Wave properties:
– Wavelength (frequency)
– Amplitude
– Phase
Long wavelength
(low frequency)
 
Short wavelength
(high frequency)
c = the speed of light (~3.00 x 108 m/s)
 = the frequency in cycles/second (Hz)
 = the wavelength in meters/cycle
Interference of Radiation
 Monochromatic: radiation containing a single frequency
 Polychromatic: radiation containing multiple frequencies
Constructive interference:
when two waves reinforce
each other
Destructive interference: when
two waves cancel each other
The Interaction of Radiation and Matter
Electromagnetic radiation travels fastest in a vacuum
 When not travelling in a vacuum, radiation and matter
can interact in a number of ways
Some key processes (for spectroscopy):
– Absorption
Transmission of Radiation
The velocity at which radiation travels (or propagates)
through a medium is dependent on the medium itself
 When radiation travels through a medium and does not
undergo a frequency change, it cannot be undergoing a
permanent energy transfer
 However, radiation can still interact with the medium
– Radiation, an EM field, polarizes the electron clouds of
atoms in the medium
– Polarization is a temporary deformation of the electron
Transmission and Refraction
 The refractive index (ni) of a medium is given by:
ni 
c = the speed of light (~3.00 x 108 m/s)
i = the velocity of the radiation in the medium in m/s
ni = the refractive index at the frequency i
 Refractive index measures the degree of interaction
between the radiation and the medium
– Liquids: ni ~ 1.3 to 1.8
– Solids: ni ~ 1.3 to 2.5
 Refractive index can be used to identify pure liquid
 When radiation passes through an interface between two
media with different refractive indices, it can abruptly
change direction
 Snell’s law:
sin 1
n1 v2
sin  2
n2 v1
1 = the velocity of the radiation in medium 1 in m/s
n1 = the refractive index in medium 1
Snell’s law is a consequence
of the change in velocity in
the media
Reflection always occurs at
an interface. Its extent
depends on the refractive
indices of the media
Medium 1
Medium 2
 Fraunhofer diffraction:
– Also known as far-field diffraction, parallel beam
– Important in optical microscopy
 Fresnel diffraction
– Also known as near-field diffraction
Bragg diffraction – multiple slit Fraunhofer diffraction:
– Important for instrument design, crystallography
n  2d sin 
 Diffraction gratings:
– Widely used in
spectroscopic instruments
to separate frequencies
(can be made precisely)
 Rayleigh scattering (an elastic process):
– Scattering of small amounts of radiation by molecules
and atoms (whose size is near to the wavelength of
the radiation)
scattering 
 Mie scattering: applies to large particles, involves
scattering in different directions.
– Practical use in particle size analysis
Polarization of EM radiation – a simple classical picture:
Figure from Sears, et al., “University Physics”, 7th Ed., 1988
Coherent Radiation
 Coherent radiation fulfils two
conditions: (1) it has the
same frequency or set of
frequencies, and (2) it has a
well-defined and constant
phase relationship
– Coherent radiation is “crosscorelated” in that the
properties of one beam can
be used to predict those of the
other beam
 Examples of coherent
– Lasers
– Microwave sources (masers)
Coherent radiation: different
frequencies (colors) with a defined
phase relationship interfere to produce
a pulse
Diagram from (public domain)
Incoherent Radiation
 Produced by “random”
emission, e.g. individual
atoms in a large sample
emitting photons
Actually is coherent, but just
to a tiny (undetectable)
Also known as “continuous”
 Examples of incoherent
– Incandescent light bulbs
– Filament sources
– Deuterium lamps
Incoherent radiation: different
frequencies (colors) combined to
produce continuous radiation with
varying phase, frequency and
Diagram from (public domain)
More Properties of Electromagnetic Radiation
 Wave and particle behavior: photons behave as both
waves and particles
– Quantum mechanics developed around the concept of
the photon, the elementary unit of radiation
 Planck’s law:
E  h
 E is the energy of the photon in joules
 h is Planck's constant (6.624 x 10-34 joule seconds)
  is the frequency of the radiation
Absorption and Emission
 Absorption is a process accompanied by an energy
– involves energy transfer of EM radiation to a
substance, usually at specific frequencies
corresponding to natural atomic or molecular energies
 Emission occurs when matter releases energy in the form
of radiation (photons
Higher energy
Lower energy
E = h
Energy Levels
 Several types of quantum-mechanical energy levels
occur in nature:
– Electronic
– Rotational
– Vibrational (including phonons and heat)
– Nuclear
 For each of these, a discrete quantum “state” and
energy-driven transitions between these “states” can be
studied (as opposed to a continuous range of energies)
The Uncertainty of Measurements
 Because the lifetimes of quantum states can persist for
short periods, it can be difficult to measure their energies
 This is usually stated in the form of an “energy-time
Et  
The Uncertainty Principle
 The uncertainty principle:
it is not possible to know both
the location and the momentum of a particle exactly – a
fundamental limit on all measurements
 In Heisenberg’s terms, the act of measuring a particle’s
position affects its momentum, and vice versa
 In equation form:
xpx  12 
– In other words, if you know the position of a particle to within x,
then you can specify its momentum along x to px
– As the uncertainty in x increases (x ), that of px decreases (x
), and vice versa
Spectra and Spectrometers
 Spectra are usually plotted as frequency vs. amplitude
– Instead of energy, wavelength or energy (related
properties) can also be used
– The choice of x- and y-axes is often dependent on the
particular technique, its history, etc…
– Key parameter is frequency/energy/wavelength
 Spectrometers:
instruments that measure the interaction
of radiation with matter, so the properties of such
interactions can be studied
Spectroscopy in Analytical Chemistry
 Widely used approach for characterizing systems ranging
from chemical physics to biology, from individual atoms to
the largest molecules
 Some of the most common techniques are:
– UV-Visible spectroscopy
IR spectroscopy
Raman spectroscopy
X-ray spectroscopy
NMR spectroscopy
– EPR spectroscopy
Further Reading
P. W. Atkins and R. S. Friedman, Molecular Quantum
Mechanics, 3rd Ed. Oxford, New York (2003)
R. P. Feynman, R. B. Leighton, M. Sands, The Feynman
Lectures on Physics, Addison-Wesley, Reading MA (1977)
Any good physics text!