Beer-Lambert Law- Definition, Derivation, and Limitations


The Beer-Lambert law, also known as the Beer-Lambert-Bouguer law or simply Beer`s law, is a fundamental relation in spectroscopy that relates the absorption of light by a solution to the properties of the solution and the light. The law states that the logarithm of the ratio of the intensity of the incident light (Io) to the intensity of the transmitted light (I) is proportional to the product of the path length of the absorbing medium (x), the concentration of the absorbing solution (c), and a constant called the molar absorptivity or extinction coefficient (Ξ΅) of the solute at a given wavelength. Mathematically, the law can be expressed as:

$$\log \frac{I_0}{I} = \epsilon c x$$

The Beer-Lambert law is useful for determining the concentration of a solute in a solution from its absorbance, or vice versa, if the molar absorptivity and the path length are known. The law can also be used to compare the absorption spectra of different compounds and to identify unknown substances by their characteristic absorption peaks.

The Beer-Lambert law is based on two assumptions: that the light is monochromatic, meaning that it has a single wavelength, and that the solution is homogeneous, meaning that it has a uniform concentration and composition throughout. The law also assumes that there is no scattering or reflection of light by the solution or the container, and that the solute molecules do not interact with each other or change their chemical state due to light absorption.

The Beer-Lambert law was derived independently by several scientists in the 18th and 19th centuries, including Pierre Bouguer, Johann Heinrich Lambert, August Beer, and Jacques Babinet. The law is named after Beer and Lambert, who published their results in 1852 and 1760, respectively. The law is also sometimes attributed to Bouguer, who was the first to measure the attenuation of light by atmospheric air in 1729.

The Beer-Lambert law has many applications in various fields of science and engineering, such as analytical chemistry, biochemistry, physics, astronomy, meteorology, environmental science, and medicine. The law is commonly used to measure the concentration of solutes in solutions by using spectrophotometers, which are instruments that measure the intensity of light at different wavelengths. The law can also be used to study the structure and function of molecules by analyzing how they absorb light of different frequencies. For example, the Beer-Lambert law can be used to determine the amount of oxygen in blood by measuring its absorption of red and infrared light. The law can also be used to estimate the amount of pollutants in air or water by measuring their absorption of ultraviolet or visible light.