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Dipartimento di Fisica


Corso di Laurea Magistrale in Fisica A.A. 2016/2017

Laboratorio di Fisica della Materia

Diego Haro 187339

In this experiment, we investigate the partition of light in the visible and near visible region
of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. Using a spectrophotometer, we analyse the emission
spectrum of a source light which allows us to compare the diverse sources. Additionally, we
use the transmittance, absorbance and reflectance of the electromagnetic spectrum to
characterize materials by their optical properties.

Theoretical Background
Visible and near visible region of the Electromagnetic Spectrum (ES)

The region that the human eye can detect is called the visible region is only a small portion of
the total electromagnetic spectrum (ES). Each unique type of light, colour, in the ES is
identified by its wavelength (table 1). For the visible region, the lengths of the light waves are
in the range from 400nm to 800nm.

Colour Wavelength Frequency Photon energy

violet 400–450 nm 668–789 THz 2.75–3.26 eV

blue 450–495 nm 606–668 THz 2.50–2.75 eV

green 495–570 nm 526–606 THz 2.17–2.50 eV

yellow 570–590 nm 508–526 THz 2.10–2.17 eV

orange 590–620 nm 484–508 THz 2.00–2.10 eV

red 620–800 nm 400–484 THz 1.65–2.00 eV

Table 1. Visible light wavelengths, frequency and energy

The infrared (IR) and the ultraviolet(UV) represent the two extremities of the visible spectrum
(400-800nm). The IR extends from the red edge of the visible spectrum (800 nm) to as high as
1 mm. The thermal radiation emitted by the objects at room temperature is also IR radiation.
The UV radiation, on the other hand, covers the wavelength range of 400 nm (violet edge) to
10 nm.


Spectrophotometers are available for most regions of the ES. Those designed for the visible
region of the spectrum were developed first and are still the most common. Figure 1 shows
the diagram for a spectrophotometer of the type that is used for experiment. This device is
designed to split visible light into its components colours and then allow the light to pass
through a given sample of material. All spectrophotometers have essentially the same major
components but with varying degrees of sophistication. These essential components are a
light source, a sample holder, and a detector.

Figure 1. Diagram of a Spectrophotometer with array detector

The detector is an array CCD (charged coupled devise). The detector measures the voltage or
the current generated, obtaining data over a range of wavelengths requires multiple
measurements, a diagram of the counts per unit of wavelength is generated. Relating these
counts with their respective blank sample can be converted to amount of light that has been
transmitted, absorbed or reflected by the sample at each wavelength.

The detector in the spectrophotometer can capture light for a length of time called the
integration time. The longer the integration time, the higher the intensity of the signal. This
time should be adjusted to maximize the signal without saturating the detector.

𝐼(𝜆) = Equation 1

The acquisition time must be such that the number of counts for the maximum intensity is
not greater than 16000 counts since this is the saturation value for the detector used.

𝐼(𝜆)𝑚𝑎𝑥 . Δ𝑡 < 16000 Equation 2

Sources of light
Neon light

Ultraviolet light is emitted by discharge inside a tube filled with a noble gas then it is absorbed
by the coating, which subsequently by photoemission emits light of a different colour (and
with a lower photon energy). Depending on the exact material of the coating, a whole range
of colours can be obtained.

Incandescent bulb light

An incandescent light bulb contains a tungsten filament that is resistively heated when
current passes through it, so that electromagnetic radiation is generated by the thermal
motion of charged particles in matter. At temperatures around 2000 K, the filament starts to
emit visible light.

LEDs are semiconductor devices that emit light when electrons in the conduction band
transition across the bandgap via radiative recombination with holes in the valence band.
Unlike incandescent bulbs, LEDs emit light over a very narrow range of wavelengths.

Signal to noise ratio

Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR or S/N) is a measure that compares the level of a desired signal to
the level of background noise. S/N ratio is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise

Quantities used to describe the optical properties of materials.


Transmission. - Some of the electromagnetic radiation get absorbed by the medium. The
other remaining part is traveling through the medium, so the intensity of the light ray is
decreased after the transmission.

Transmittance is the fraction of incident electromagnetic power that is transmitted through

a sample.

%𝑇 = Equation 3


Absorption. - electromagnetic radiation is taken up by matter transformed into internal

energy of the absorber, for example thermal energy.

Absorbance is a number that measures the attenuation of the transmitted radiant power in a

𝐴 = −log⁡(%𝑇) Equation 4

Reflexion. - The incident photon is bouncing off all the atoms at once, and you only get
constructive interference when the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence. The
condition is that the surface is smooth on the scale of the wavelength of light, so that the light
can excite each atom independently, and coherently add up all their contributions.

Reflectance is the fraction of incident electromagnetic power that is reflected at an interface.

𝑅𝑒 = Equation 5

1. Spectrophotometer: (Spectral Range: 200nm - 1100nm) (Dynamic Range: 0-16000
2. Light sources: neon tube, incandescent bulb, LED.
3. Filters: red, green, blue light, lithium niobate, neutral filter.
4. Fabric with pigments of distinct colours.

Experimental Procedure
Set up the spectrophotometer

Get the data (counts) of each measurement. Use the same parameters (integration time,
average of scans) for similar measurements.

Emission spectrum

 Take measurements from the light sources and compare their spectrum.
 Compare and analyse the data obtained.

Filtered light

 Take the measurements from the incandescent bulb we will use this as the incident
initial intensity [Io]. This is considered the blank.
 Measure the transmitted light [I] after it has passed through the filters.
 Compare and analyse the data obtained.


 Take the measurements from the reflected light that comes from the blank (white
pingment), this is the reflected initial intensity [Ro].
 Measure the reflected light [R] after being reflected on the pigments.
 Compare and analyse the data obtained.

Results and discussion

Emission spectrum

The sketch of the data obtain is the Spectral Power Distribution where horizontal axes are
wavelengths in nanometres, and the vertical axes show relative intensity in arbitrary units.

In the figure 2 we can observe the characteristic spectrum for some sources of light. The range
of the spectral range of the detector goes from the ultraviolet (200nm) to the infrared
(1100nm), in between we can notice the visible region (400nm-800nm). Dashed vertical lines
shown the wavelengths corresponding to the blue (440nm), green (540), and red (700) light.

The corresponding spectrum from incandescent bulb, neon tube and LED sources give as a
result white light, but we must take in account that they come from different phenomena.
Figure 2. Characteristic spectral power distributions for an incandescent lamp (Red) a fluorescent lamp
(purple) and a white LED (green).

Neon spectrum

As it is shown in Figure 2, the picks of emission of the neon tube are in region corresponding
to blue, green and yellow, and our vision recognise them all together as white light.

Incandescent bulb spectrum

An incandescent bulb emits a greater proportion of red light than natural daylight, and some
energy is in the invisible infrared region as we can see in figure 2.


Most of the emitted light is within the visible region, no so much energy is in the red region,
all the emission power is located within the visible region. Figure 2.

Filtered light

In Figure 3 is possible to appreciate the ES for the light when it passes by the filters. To know
how much light was transmitted through a media we need to get the incident initial spectrum
(blank), in this case the spectrum of the incandescent light is used, because it covers all the
wavelengths in the visible and near visible region.

Figure 3. Spectrum of the incandescent light, and the transmitted light.

To make a comparison among the transmitted light with respect to the blank we use the
transmittance. In Figure 4 we observe the transmittance for each wavelength, in the visible
region the signal is so big that the signal to noise ratio (SNR) became large, but out of the
visible region the spread became very wide, this happen because the signal is relatively low
in this region so that the SNR is small.

Figure 4. Transmittance of the filtered light

Red filter. – This filter allows to pass less that 5% of the light in the range of the blue and
green, from 560nm (green) the transmition start to grow quikly until 610nm. After this we
can observe the maximum of transmitace 90% which is located partially in the yellow and
mainly in the red region (610-710).

Green filter. – This filter starts with a transamitance of about 20 % at 400 nm, after it reaches
its maximum pick of 90% at 510nm which correspond to the green light them it dops. From
650nm it start to have a modeate growth until 800nm.

Light blue filter. – The transmitance starts in the ultraviolet (350nm) having a smooth grouth,
its maximun in the green region (510nm) and dropping quikly finihing in the yellow region
(600nm), after there is a small pick in the orange region (650nm), then the transmitance grow
again to 90% when it goes to the red and infrared.
Neutral filter. – This filter just reduce the amount of light that passes througt it by around 60%
in all the visible region, in the infrared region instead the transmitance increases.

Lithium Niobate. –The transmitance starts to grow in the ultraviolet (350nm) having its
maximun of about 100% in the blue region(510nm) falling down to its minimum transmitance
close to 0% in the vecinity red and continues until the infrared region. So this filter blocks the
red and infrared light and allows to pass everything else in the visible range.

Absorbance is the opposite of the transmittance so that the greatest the value of the
transmittance the smallest the value of absorbance. We can see in figure 5 which wave
lengths are absorbed by the materials and which ones can pass for every filter.

Figure 5. Absorbance of filtered light

Reflected light

Comparing the reflected light from the pigment with the blank, it is possible to observe, the
change in the spectrum of those pigments when light is reflected from them. Figure 6.
Figure 6. Reflected spectrum
Figure 7 shows the reflectance per unit of wavelength and Figure 8 shows the absorbance.
For the analysis let us consider both at the time. The SNR is great in the visible region in the
extremities it became small.

Figure 7. Reflectance from filters

Yellow pigment. – as we can see this pigment absorbed most of the radiation, in the near
ultraviolet, violet and blue region and let pass most of the radiation in all the other
Green pigment. – most of the radiate power in the visible region it has pick of in the region
corresponding to the green region, it also reflects the light in the red and infrared region
around 80%. In general, it absorbed a big amount of radiation power.

Blue pigment. - it has a pick of reflectance in the region corresponding to the blue after it
drops for higher wavelengths, and for the infrared region the reflectance goes to around 40%.

Blue cobalto pigment. – most of the incident power is absorbed by this pigment, it has a little
pick in the region corresponding to the violet and blue and light. The reflectance grows again
in the region corresponding to the infrared region.

Graphite. - it has a little pick in the ultraviolet region, and in all the other wavelengths around
40% per cent of the incident light is reflected.

Figure 8. Absorbance of reflected light

Since absorbance is the opposite of the transmittance we can see in Figure 8 which wave
lengths are absorbed pigment.
It is observed the wavelengths or frequency of a range of the electromagnetic spectrum from
diverse sources, hence the different light sources can be known, compared and chosen for
the applications that we could need.

Filters allow to pass certain wavelengths and block others, measuring the output, comparing
them with a blank and using quantities like transmittance and absorbance we can characterize
the optical properties of the filters, knowing those properties we can use the filters to any use
we need.

By measuring the reflected electromagnetic spectrum from a sample, can have an idea about
the surface topology of a material, the flattest the more reflective. Also, that colour in a
sample basically is the wavelengths of light which are reflected by the material. This is useful
if we want to compare different samples, and characterize them by their reflection.