Overview Of Ultraviolet Spectroscopy Biology Essay

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Spectroscopy was originally the study of the interaction between radiation and matter as a function of wavelength (λ). Historically, spectroscopy referred to the use of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g. by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any measurement of a quantity as a function of either wavelength or frequency. Thus, it also can refer to a response to an alternating field or varying frequency (ν). A further extension of the scope of the definition added energy (E) as a variable, once the very close relationship E = hν for phHYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photon"otons was realized (h is the Planck constant). A plot of the response as a function of wavelength-or more commonly frequency-is referred to as a spectrum; see also spectral linewidth.

Spectrometry is the spectroscopic technique used to assess the concentration or amount of a given chemical (atomic, molecular, or ionic) species. In this case, the instrument that performs such measurements is a spectrometer, spectrophotometer, or spectrograph.

Spectroscopy/spectrometry is often used in physical and analytical chemistry for the identification of substances through the spectrum emitted from or absorbed by them.

Spectroscopy/spectrometry is also heavily used in astronomy and remote sensing. Most large telescopes have spectrometers, which are used either to measure the chemical composition and physical properties of astronomical objects or to measure their velocities from the Doppler shift of their spectral lines.

1. Nature of excitation measured

The type of spectroscopy depends on the physical quantity measured. Normally, the quantity that is measured is an intensity, of energy either absorbed or produced.

Electromagnetic spectroscopy involves interactions of matter with electromagnetic radiation, such as light.

Electron spectroscopy involves interactions with electron beams. Auger spectroscopy involves inducing the Auger effect with an electron beam. In this case the measurement typically involves the kinetic energy of the electron as variable.

Acoustic spectroscopy involves the frequency of sound.

Dielectric spectroscopy involves the frequency of an external electrical field

Mechanical spectroscopy involves the frequency of an external mechanical stress, e.g. a torsion applied to a piece of material.

2. Measurement process

Most spectroscopic methods are differentiated as either atomic or molecular based on whether or not they apply to atoms or molecules. Along with that distinction, they can be classified on the nature of their interaction:

Absorption spectroscopy uses the range of the electromagnetic spectra in which a substance absorbs. This includes atomic absorption spectroscopy and various molecular techniques, such as infrared, ultraviolet-visible and microwave spectroscopy.

Emission spectroscopy uses the range of electromagnetic spectra in which a substance radiates (emits). The substance first must absorb energy. This energy can be from a variety of sources, which determines the name of the subsequent emission, like luminescence. Molecular luminescence techniques include spectrofluorimetry.

Scattering spectroscopy measures the amount of light that a substance scatters at certain wavelengths, incident angles, and polarization angles. One of the most useful applications of light scattering spectroscopy is Raman spectroscopy



Absorption spectroscopy is a technique in which the power of a beam of light measured before and after interaction with a sample is compared. Specific absorption techniques tend to be referred to by the wavelength of radiation measured such as ultraviolet, infrared or microwave absorption spectroscopy. Absorption occurs when the energy of the photons matches the energy difference between two states of the material.


When X-rays of sufficient frequency (energy) interact with a substance, inner shell electrons in the atom are excited to outer empty orbitals, or they may be removed completely, ionizing the atom. The inner shell "hole" will then be filled by electrons from outer orbitals. The energy available in this de-excitation process is emitted as radiation (fluorescence) or will remove other less-bound electrons from the atom (Auger effect). The absorption or emission frequencies (energies) are characteristic of the specific atom. In addition, for a specific atom, small frequency (energy) variations that are characteristic of the chemical bonding occur. With a suitable apparatus, these characteristic X-ray frequencies or Auger electron energies can be measured. X-ray absorption and emission spectroscopy is used in chemistry and material sciences to determine elemental composition and chemical bonding.

X-ray crystallography is a scattering process; crystalline materials scatter X-rays at well-defined angles. If the wavelength of the incident X-rays is known, this allows calculation of the distances between planes of atoms within the crystal. The intensities of the scattered X-rays give information about the atomic positions and allow the arrangement of the atoms within the crystal structure to be calculated. However, the X-ray light is then not dispersed according to its wavelength, which is set at a given value, and X-ray diffraction is thus not a spectroscopy.

Flame technique

Liquid solution samples are aspirated into a burner or nebulizer/burner combination, desolvated, atomized, and sometimes excited to a higher energy electronic state. The use of a flame during analysis requires fuel and oxidant, typically in the form of gases. Common fuel gases used are acetylene (ethyne) or hydrogen. Common oxidant gases used are oxygen, air, or nitrous oxide. These methods are often capable of analyzing metallic element analytes in the part per million, billion, or possibly lower concentration ranges. Light detectors are needed to detect light with the analysis information coming from the flame.

Atomic Emission Spectroscopy - This method uses flame excitation; atoms are excited from the heat of the flame to emit light. This method commonly uses a total consumption burner with a round burning outlet. A higher temperature flame than atomic absorption spectroscopy (AA) is typically used to produce excitation of analyte atoms. Since analyte atoms are excited by the heat of the flame, no special elemental lamps to shine into the flame are needed. A high resolution polychromator can be used to produce an emission intensity vs. wavelength spectrum over a range of wavelengths showing multiple element excitation lines, meaning multiple elements can be detected in one run. Alternatively, a monochromator can be set at one wavelength to concentrate on analysis of a single element at a certain emission line. Plasma emission spectroscopy is a more modern version of this method. See Flame emission spectroscopy for more details.

Atomic absorption spectroscopy (often called AA) - This method commonly uses a pre-burner nebulizer (or nebulizing chamber) to create a sample mist and a slot-shaped burner that gives a longer pathlength flame. The temperature of the flame is low enough that the flame itself does not excite sample atoms from their ground state. The nebulizer and flame are used to desolvate and atomize the sample, but the excitation of the analyte atoms is done by the use of lamps shining through the flame at various wavelengths for each type of analyte. In AA, the amount of light absorbed after going through the flame determines the amount of analyte in the sample. A graphite furnace for heating the sample to desolvate and atomize is commonly used for greater sensitivity. The graphite furnace method can also analyze some solid or slurry samples. Because of its good sensitivity and selectivity, it is still a commonly used method of analysis for certain trace elements in aqueous (and other liquid) samples.

Atomic Fluorescence Spectroscopy - This method commonly uses a burner with a round burning outlet. The flame is used to solvate and atomize the sample, but a lamp shines light at a specific wavelength into the flame to excite the analyte atoms in the flame. The atoms of certain elements can thenfluoresce emitting light in a different direction. The intensity of this fluorescing light is used for quantifying the amount of analyte element in the sample. A graphite furnace can also be used for atomic fluorescence spectroscopy. This method is not as commonly used as atomic absorption or plasma emission spectroscopy.

Plasma Emission Spectroscopy In some ways similar to flame atomic emission spectroscopy, it has largely replaced it.

Direct-current plasma (DCP)

A direct-current plasma (DCP) is created by an electrical discharge between two electrodes. A plasma support gas is necessary, and Ar is common. Samples can be deposited on one of the electrodes, or if conducting can make up one electrode.

Glow discharge-optical emission spectrometry (GD-OES)

Inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES)

Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) (LIBS), also called Laser-induced plasma spectrometry (LIPS)

Microwave-induced plasma (MIP)

Spark or arc (emission) spectroscopy - is used for the analysis of metallic elements in solid samples. For non-conductive materials, a sample is ground with graphite powder to make it conductive. In traditional arc spectroscopy methods, a sample of the solid was commonly ground up and destroyed during analysis. An electric arc or spark is passed through the sample, heating the sample to a high temperature to excite the atoms in it. The excited analyte atoms glow, emitting light at various wavelengths that could be detected by common spectroscopic methods. Since the conditions producing the arc emission typically are not controlled quantitatively, the analysis for the elements is qualitative. Nowadays, the spark sources with controlled discharges under an argon atmosphere allow that this method can be considered eminently quantitative, and its use is widely expanded worldwide through production control laboratories of foundries and steel mills.


Many atoms emit or absorb visible light. In order to obtain a fine line spectrum, the atoms must be in a gas phase. This means that the substance has to be vaporised. The spectrum is studied in absorption or emission. Visible absorption spectroscopy is often combined with UV absorption spectroscopy in UV/Vis spectroscopy. Although this form may be uncommon as the human eye is a similar indicator, it still proves useful when distinguishing colours.


All atoms absorb in the Ultraviolet (UV) region because these photons are energetic enough to excite outer electrons. If the frequency is high enough, photoionization takes place. UV spectroscopy is also used in quantifying protein and DNA concentration as well as the ratio of protein to DNA concentration in a solution. Several amino acids usually found in protein, such as tryptophan, absorb light in the 280 nm range and DNA absorbs light in the 260 nm range. For this reason, the ratio of 260/280 nm absorbance is a good general indicator of the relative purity of a solution in terms of these two macromolecules. Reasonable estimates of protein or DNA concentration can also be made this way using Beer's law.


Infrared spectroscopy offers the possibility to measure different types of inter atomic bond vibrations at different frequencies. Especially in organic chemistry the analysis of IR absorption spectra shows what type of bonds are present in the sample. It is also an important method for analysing polymers and constituents like fillers, pigments and plasticizers.


1. Background

An obvious difference between certain compounds is their color. Thus, quinone is yellow; chlorophyll is green; the 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazone derivatives of aldehydes and ketones range in color from bright yellow to deep red, depending on double bond conjugation; and aspirin is colorless. In this respect the human eye is functioning as a spectrometer analyzing the light reflected from the surface of a solid or passing through a liquid. Although we see sunlight (or white light) as uniform or homogeneous in color, it is actually composed of a broad range of radiation wavelengths in the ultraviolet (UV), visible and infrared (IR) portions of the spectrum. As shown on the right, the component colors of the visible portion can be separated by passing sunlight through a prism, which acts to bend the light in differing degrees according to wavelength. Electromagnetic radiation such as visible light is commonly treated as a wave phenomenon, characterized by a wavelength or frequency. Wavelength is defined on the left below, as the distance between adjacent peaks (or troughs), and may be designated in meters, centimeters or nanometers (10-9 meters). Frequency is the number of wave cycles that travel past a fixed point per unit of time, and is usually given in cycles per second, or hertz (Hz). Visible wavelengths cover a range from approximately 400 to 800 nm. The longest visible wavelength is red and the shortest is violet. Other common colors of the spectrum, in order of decreasing wavelength, may be remembered by the mnemonic: ROY G BIV. The wavelengths of what we perceive as particular colors in the visible portion of the spectrum are displayed and listed below. In horizontal diagrams, such as the one on the bottom left, wavelength will increase on moving from left to right.

Violet:   400 - 420 nm

Indigo:   420 - 440 nm

Blue:   440 - 490 nm

Green:   490 - 570 nm

Yellow:   570 - 585 nm

Orange:   585 - 620 nm

Red:   620 - 780 nm

When white light passes through or is reflected by a colored substance, a characteristic portion of the mixed wavelengths is absorbed. The remaining light will then assume the complementary color to the wavelength(s) absorbed. This relationship is demonstrated by the color wheel shown on the right. Here, complementary colors are diametrically opposite each other. Thus, absorption of 420-430 nm light renders a substance yellow, and absorption of 500-520 nm light makes it red. Green is unique in that it can be created by absoption close to 400 nm as well as absorption near 800 nm.

Early humans valued colored pigments, and used them for decorative purposes. Many of these were inorganic minerals, but several important organic dyes were also known. These included the crimson pigment, kermesic acid, the blue dye, indigo, and the yellow saffron pigment, crocetin. A rare dibromo-indigo derivative, punicin, was used to color the robes of the royal and wealthy. The deep orange hydrocarbon carotene is widely distributed in plants, but is not sufficiently stable to be used as permanent pigment, other than for food coloring. A common feature of all these colored compounds, displayed below, is a system of extensively conjugated pi-electrons.

2. The Electromagnetic Spectrum

The visible spectrum constitutes but a small part of the total radiation spectrum. Most of the radiation that surrounds us cannot be seen, but can be detected by dedicated sensing instruments. This electromagnetic spectrum ranges from very short wavelengths (including gamma and x-rays) to very long wavelengths (including microwaves and broadcast radio waves). The following chart displays many of the important regions of this spectrum, and demonstrates the inverse relationship between wavelength and frequency (shown in the top equation below the chart).

The energy associated with a given segment of the spectrum is proportional to its frequency. The bottom equation describes this relationship, which provides the energy carried by a photon of a given wavelength of radiation.

3. UV-Visible Absorption Spectra

To understand why some compounds are colored and others are not, and to determine the relationship of conjugation to color, we must make accurate measurements of light absorption at different wavelengths in and near the visible part of the spectrum. Commercial optical spectrometers enable such experiments to be conducted with ease, and usually survey both the near ultraviolet and visible portions of the spectrum.

The visible region of the spectrum comprises photon energies of 36 to 72 kcal/mole, and the near ultraviolet region, out to 200 nm, extends this energy range to 143 kcal/mole. Ultraviolet radiation having wavelengths less than 200 nm is difficult to handle, and is seldom used as a routine tool for structural analysis.

The energies noted above are sufficient to promote or excite a molecular electron to a higher energy orbital. Consequently, absorption spectroscopy carried out in this region is sometimes called "electronic spectroscopy". A diagram showing the various kinds of electronic excitation that may occur in organic molecules is shown on the left. Of the six transitions outlined, only the two lowest energy ones (left-most, colored blue) are achieved by the energies available in the 200 to 800 nm spectrum. As a rule, energetically favored electron promotion will be from the highest occupied molecular orbital (HOMO) to the lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO), and the resulting species is called an excited state.

When sample molecules are exposed to light having an energy that matches a possible electronic transition within the molecule, some of the light energy will be absorbed as the electron is promoted to a higher energy orbital. An optical spectrometer records the wavelengths at which absorption occurs, together with the degree of absorption at each wavelength. The resulting spectrum is presented as a graph of absorbance (A) versus wavelength, as in the isoprene spectrum shown below. Since isoprene is colorless, it does not absorb in the visible part of the spectrum and this region is not displayed on the graph. Absorbance usually ranges from 0 (no absorption) to 2 (99% absorption), and is precisely defined in context with spectrometer operation.

Because the absorbance of a sample will be proportional to the number of absorbing molecules in the spectrometer light beam (e.g. their molar concentration in the sample tube), it is necessary to correct the absorbance value for this and other operational factors if the spectra of different compounds are to be compared in a meaningful way. The corrected absorption value is called "molar absorptivity", and is particularly useful when comparing the spectra of different compounds and determining the relative strength of light absorbing functions (chromophores). Molar absorptivity (ε) is defined as:

Molar Absorptivity, ε = A/ c l

(whereA= absorbance, c= sample concentration in moles/liter&l= length of light path through the sample in cm.)

If the isoprene spectrum on the right was obtained from a dilute hexane solution (c = 4 * 10-5 moles per liter) in a 1 cm sample cuvette, a simple calculation using the above formula indicates a molar absorptivity of 20,000 at the maximum absorption wavelength. Indeed the entire vertical absorbance scale may be changed to a molar absorptivity scale once this information about the sample is in hand. Clicking on the spectrum will display this change in units.

From the chart above it should be clear that the only molecular moieties likely to absorb light in the 200 to 800 nm region are pi-electron functions and hetero atoms having non-bonding valence-shell electron pairs. Such light absorbing groups are referred to as chromophores. A list of some simple chromophores and their light absorption characteristics is provided on the left above. The oxygen non-bonding electrons in alcohols and ethers do not give rise to absorption above 160 nm. Consequently, pure alcohol and ether solvents may be used for spectroscopic studies.

The presence of chromophores in a molecule is best documented by UV-Visible spectroscopy, but the failure of most instruments to provide absorption data for wavelengths below 200 nm makes the detection of isolated chromophores problematic. Fortunately, conjugation generally moves the absorption maxima to longer wavelengths, as in the case of isoprene, so conjugation becomes the major structural feature identified by this technique.

Molar absorptivities may be very large for strongly absorbing chromophores (>10,000) and very small if absorption is weak (10 to 100). The magnitude ofε reflects both the size of the chromophore and the probability that light of a given wavelength will be absorbed when it strikes the chromophore.

4. The Importance of Conjugation

A comparison of the absorption spectrum of 1-pentene, λmax = 178 nm, with that of isoprene (above) clearly demonstrates the importance of chromophore conjugation. Further evidence of this effect is shown below. The spectrum on the left illustrates that conjugation of double and triple bonds also shifts the absorption maximum to longer wavelengths. From the polyene spectra displayed in the center diagram, it is clear that each additional double bond in the conjugated pi-electron system shifts the absorption maximum about 30 nm in the same direction. Also, the molar absorptivity (ε) roughly doubles with each new conjugated double bond. Spectroscopists use the terms defined in the table on the right when describing shifts in absorption. Thus, extending conjugation generally results in bathochromic and hyperchromic shifts in absorption.

The appearance of several absorption peaks or shoulders for a given chromophore is common for highly conjugated systems, and is often solvent dependent. This fine structure reflects not only the different conformations such systems may assume, but also electronic transitions between the different vibrational energy levels possible for each electronic state. Vibrational fine structure of this kind is most pronounced in vapor phase spectra, and is increasingly broadened and obscured in solution as the solvent is changed from hexane to methanol.

To understand why conjugation should cause bathochromic shifts in the absorption maxima of chromophores, we need to look at the relative energy levels of the pi-orbitals. When two double bonds are conjugated, the four p-atomic orbitals combine to generate four pi-molecular orbitals (two are bonding and two are antibonding). This was described earlier in the section concerning diene chemistry. In a similar manner, the three double bonds of a conjugated triene create six pi-molecular orbitals, half bonding and half antibonding. The energetically most favorableπ  __> π* excitation occurs from the highest energy bonding pi-orbital (HOMO) to the lowest energy antibonding pi-orbital (LUMO).

The following diagram illustrates this excitation for an isolated double bond (only two pi-orbitals) and, on clicking the diagram, for a conjugated diene and triene. In each case the HOMO is colored blue and the LUMO is colored magenta. Increased conjugation brings the HOMO and LUMO orbitals closer together. The energy (ΔE) required to effect the electron promotion is therefore less, and the wavelength that provides this energy is increased correspondingly (remember   λ = h • c/ΔE ).

Examples of π __> π* Excitation

Many other kinds of conjugated pi-electron systems act as chromophores and absorb light in the 200 to 800 nm region. These include unsaturated aldehydes and ketones and aromatic ring compounds. A few examples are displayed below. The spectrum of the unsaturated ketone (on the left) illustrates the advantage of a logarithmic display of molar absorptivity. The π __> π* absorption located at 242 nm is very strong, with an ε = 18,000. The weak n __> π* absorption near 300 nm has an ε = 100.

Benzene exhibits very strong light absorption near 180 nm (ε > 65,000) , weaker absorption at 200 nm (ε = 8,000) and a group of much weaker bands at 254 nm (ε = 240). Only the last group of absorptions are completely displayed because of the 200 nm cut-off characteristic of most spectrophotometers. The added conjugation in naphthalene, anthracene and tetracene causes bathochromic shifts of these absorption bands, as displayed in the chart on the left below. All the absorptions do not shift by the same amount, so for anthracene (green shaded box) and tetracene (blue shaded box) the weak absorption is obscured by stronger bands that have experienced a greater red shift. As might be expected from their spectra, naphthalene and anthracene are colorless, but tetracene is orange.

The spectrum of the bicyclic diene (above right) shows some vibrational fine structure, but in general is similar in appearance to that of isoprene, shown above. Closer inspection discloses that the absorption maximum of the more highly substituted diene has moved to a longer wavelength by about 15 nm. This "substituent effect" is general for dienes and trienes, and is even more pronounced for enone chromophores.