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Fig: A diagram of mass spectrometer. Image: Openstax

A spectrometer is a scientific instrument used to determine information about an object through the analysis of its light properties. Spectrometry is the study of interactions between light and matter, and the reactions and measurements of radiation intensity and wavelength. Therefore, spectrometer is the chief instrument used in spectrometric analysis.

Spectrometers were developed in early studies of physics, astronomy and chemistry. Spectrometers are of two types: Optical Spectrometers and Mass Spectrometers. Optical spectrometers work in the principle of Optical dispersion. It shows the intensity of light is a function of wavelength or frequency where the deflection is produced either by refraction in a prism or by diffraction in a diffraction grating. Mass spectrometer is an analytical instrument that is used to identify the amount and type of chemicals present in a sample. These are of two types: Time-of-flight spectrometer and Magnetic spectrometer.

A spectrometer does something similar to what a prism does: light goes in, and gets split up into a spectrum. If you shine white light through a prism, a rainbow comes out the other side. Emission is the ability of a substance to give off light, when it interacts with heat whereas Absorption is the opposite of emission, where energy, light or radiation is absorbed by the electrons of a particular matter. Since the emission and absorption lines are unique for every element, using a spectrometer can help scientists determine the composition of whatever they are studying.

Spectrometry also allows us to measure the velocities of celestial bodies, as well as distances on cosmological scales (to galaxies). Spectrometry has huge application in most of the field of science. It is one of the most important scientific instrument ever invented.

Sujan Dahal


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