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The Spectrophotometer: How Does It Work? As can be seen in the diagram below there are very few basic components in the spec- trophotometer. Signal Processor Ex) Display The light source provides all wavelengths of visible light while also providing wavelengths in the ultraviolet and near infrared range. The filters and diffraction grating separate the light into its component wavelengths so that a relatively small range of wavelengths can be directed through the sample. The sample compartment permits the entry of no stray light while at the same time not blocking out any light from the source. The photodetector converts the amount of light which it has received into a current which is then sent to a signal processor which is the “prain” of this machine. The signal processor converts the simple current it receives into absorbance, transmittance, and concentration values, which are then sent to the display. Light Control Let’s Look a Little Closer at the Parts of the Spectrophotometer: Light Source: Your spectrophotometer uses a tungsten filament lamp. The tungsten lamp is ideal for studies in the visible and near-infrared regions of the spectrum. The most important character- istics of the light source are intensity and stability. Only a small portion of the light traveling from the lamp will actually reach the photodetector, therefore its intensity must be great. Diffraction Grating: The spectrophotometer uses a reflective diffraction grating to separate the source light beam into the small bands of light that will be directed through the sample. A master grating is made by carefully machining or etching closely spaced grooves on a highly polished rectangular plate, then coating it with a highly reflective layer of metal. The distance between the grooves is about the same size as the wavelength of light the grating is to diffract. For diffracting light in the visible range, a grating with 1000 to 3000 lines per millimeter is needed. Gratings used in your instrument are replicas of the master grating. When incoming light strikes the grating, reflection and diffraction combine to produce the maximum light power at this wavelength. A diffraction grating disperses light nearly equally over a wide range of wavelengths. Filter: The filter is placed directly after the sample. The filter acts as a final barrier against stray light of unwanted wavelengths. Photodetector: Your spectrophotometer has a photodetector. When light strikes the photodetector, elec- trons are excited in the semiconducting material causing a very small current to flow. The cur- rent increases or decreases based on the intensity of the light that strikes the photodetector. Signal Processor: The signal processor converts the current it receives from the photodetector into real num- bers. The signal processor also converts the current into a digital signal which allows connection to a computer, Display: Your spectrophotometer displays both absorbance and transmittance simultaneously. This allows you to see the relationship between the two. Students will quickly learn that the two values are inversely proportional. Alternatively, concentration and factor may be displayed concurrently.