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Types And Configurations Of Spectrophotometers


Among the many scientific instruments, a lab may possess, are those that are capable of identifying specific substances and/or their characteristics or concentrations. Several devices are capable of accomplishing this; however, the most common way is to use a spectrophotometer. With several types and configurations available, it is possible to find the right spectrophotometers for each application.




You can find these specific types of photometers in chemical labs across the globe. In particular, they find employment in the following fields:


  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology


Spectrophotometers are designed with the capability to measure many different substances and materials. Main applications are to


  1. Measure a solution’s concentration
  2. Ascertain organic compounds
  3. Determine color within the spectral range of 380 to 700 nm


Overall, these instruments can measure anything from solid metals to liquids. To meet the various demands and applications, they are available in different types and configurations.


Types – Configuration


While these instruments are available in different sizes, shapes, and configurations, they are of only two basic types:


  1. The single-beam spectrophotometer: employs a reference standard to blank (standardize) the instrument prior to taking measurements.
  2. The double-beam spectrophotometer:  A double-beam instrument take the single beam and splits it into two distinct beams. One of them penetrates, and then exits the sample; the other performs the same action for the reference standard.  


While double-beam spectrophotometers make comparison measurement more facile, single-beams offer a more compact design and are more highly sensitive to fluctuations in the source of light.


Other Types of Spectrophotometers


Another way of categorizing these instruments is according to what type of light they measure. Accordingly, spectrophotometers may measure the following:


  • Ultraviolet visible (UV)-Vis:
  • Infrared (IR)
  • Atomic particles - emission or absorbance
  • Molecules (Mass) – usually large and complex


Your selection of spectrophotometer relies on such factors as application, preferred functionality, and portability.