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Difference Between Colorimeter & Spectrophotometer

Updated April 17, 2017

Colorimeters and spectrophotometers are used in the medical, research, and scientific industries to provide rapid results of unknown samples through the use of colour. Although both the colorimeter and the spectrophotometer use colour to analyse samples, they operate differently.

Light

Colorimeters use a coloured light beam to measure sample concentration. Spectrophotometers use a white light that is passed through a slit and filter to analyse samples.

Wavelengths

In colorimetry, coloured light passes through an optical filter to produce a single band of wavelengths. With spectrophotometers, the white light is passed through a special filter that disperses the light into many bands of wavelengths.

Measurement

Both of these techniques use the Beer-Lambert Law to determine concentration. The difference is that colorimeters measure the absorbency of light in a sample while spectrophotometers measure the amount of light that passes through it.

Function

The colorimeter uses psychophysical analysis, comparing colour in the same manner as human eye-brain perception. The spectrophotometer uses only physical analysis, using different wavelengths of light to determine the reflection and transmission properties of colour.

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About the Author

Specializing in home and garden topics, Nina Stanley begin her freelance career in 2009. She received her Bachelor of Science in horticulture in 2007 from Sam Houston State University and Associate of Science in 2002 from Blinn College. Through her writings, she shares her knowledge of plants with others on various websites.