Spectroscopy

Spectroscopy is the study of how matter (stuff) interacts with light. Why is this important? It is important because we can find out the small details about how materials work! We can find out how strong chemical bonds are or how some atoms interact with each other. Scientists are developing new techniques to use spectroscopy to learn more and more, so the possibilities are infinite!

The most basic techniques of spectroscopy are absorption and emission. Absorption spectroscopy, as it sounds, studies the light that the sample absorbs to go to a higher energy level. Emission spectroscopy is about studying the energy that is released when coming from a higher energy level to a lower energy level. This might sound confusing at first, so to better understand these techniques, picture a ball in between two hills:

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The ball illustrates an electron, it won't go anywhere by itself. To go up the valley, we need to apply energy to it, just like pushing the ball up with your hands. However in the case of spectroscopy, the energy is light. When we put energy (light) into an electron, the electron absorbs the light and goes up to a higher energy level.

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Emission is the opposite. When a ball is already up pretty high on the hill, what happens to the ball? Naturally, it rolls down. The ball has energy to begin with (to be up on the hill) and it releases the energy when rolling back down the hill, and the energy is released as light. That light energy that the electron releases is what we observe and study.

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