typically requires simplifying assumptions or models, and so the derived absorptionspectrum is an approximation.
 Analytical Chemistry
Absorption spectroscopy is useful in chemical analysis because of its specificity and itsquantitative nature. The specificity of absorption spectra allows compounds to bedistinguished from one another in a mixture. For example, absorption spectroscopy isused to identify the presence of pollutants in the air, distinguishing the pollutant from thenitrogen, oxygen, water and the other expected constituents.
The specificity also allowsunknown samples to be identified by comparing a measured spectrum with a library of reference spectra. In many cases, it is possible to determine qualitative information abouta sample even if it is not in a library. Infrared spectra, for instance, have characteristicsabsorption bands that indicate if carbon-hydrogen or carbon-oxygen bonds are present.An absorption spectrum can be quantitatively related to the amount of material presentusing the Beer-Lambert law. Determining the absolute concentration of a compoundrequires knowledge of the compound's absorption coefficient. The absorption coefficient
for some compounds is available from reference sources, and it can also be determined by measuring the spectrum of a calibration standard with a known concentration of thetarget.
One of the unique advantages of spectroscopy as an analytical technique is thatmeasurements can be made without bringing the instrument and sample into contact.Radiation that travels between a sample and an instrument will contain the spectralinformation, so the measurement can be maderemotely. Remote spectral sensing isvaluable in many situations. For example, measurements can be made in toxic or hazardous environments without placing an operator or instrument at risk. Also, samplematerial does not have to be brought into contact with the instrument--preventing possible cross contamination.Remote spectral measurements present several challenges compared to laboratorymeasurements. The space in between the sample of interest and the instrument may alsohave spectral absorptions. These absorptions can mask or confound the absorptionspectrum of the sample. These background interferences may also vary over time. Thesource of radiation in remote measurements is often an environmental source, such assunlight or the thermal radiation from a warm object, and this makes it necessary todistinguish spectral absorption from changes in the source spectrum.