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Spectrometer vs Spectrophotometer

Spectrometer vs Spectrophotometer: How Are They Different?

While the terms spectrometer and spectrophotometer appear similar (and a little difficult to pronounce) there are differences as well as similarities between the two instruments. Both play a key role in colorimetry and are used to measure the properties of light, but there are a few distinctions to note as well.

What is a Spectrometer?

Utilizing a spectrometer, one can detect and analyze a substance’s light waves to measure its physical characteristics over a given range, or spectrum. There are several different types of spectrometers used for a variety of applications. The three most common include an optical spectrometer, a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer (NMR) and a mass spectrometer.

An optical spectrometer measures properties of light over a precise segment of the electromagnetic spectrum. An NMR spectrometer is typically used by chemists and biochemists to examine organic molecule properties. A mass spectrometer is used to determine the mass of various molecules in a substance.

What is a Spectrophotometer?

A spectrometer measures the reflection or transmission of light by an object, usually in wavelength range from about 360 nanometers (nm) to 760 nm. A spectrophotometer measures the full color spectrum and produces spectral color data that is typically not detected by the human eye. For purposes of colorimetry, it allows for the testing of batches of colorants against a standard to ensure the colorants adhere to product specifications.

Additionally, a spectrophotometer can be used for:

  • Color measurement
  • Color formulation
  • Identifying metamerism (A phenomenon in which the human eye observes two colors that seem to match in one light, but then do not when the light changes.)
  • Measurement of opacity and haze
  • Color quality control
  • Detecting the presence of impurities

Spectrophotometers have an array of applications in various industries, including environmental, chemical, pharmaceutical, biologics, food and materials manufacturing.

What is the Difference Between a Spectrometer and a Spectrophotometer?

All spectrophotometers contain a spectrometer. The latter measures the radiated matter of light while the former measures the color it produces.

A spectrometer is used in a variety of analytical instruments, while a spectrophotometer is an all-inclusive system that contains a light source, a means to collect the light that has interacted with the test subject, and a spectrometer for collecting those measurements.

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