Colorimeter- Definition, Principle, Parts, Uses, Examples
A colorimeter is an instrument or device that measures the color or concentration of a solution by comparing it with a standard color or a pure solvent. It uses a photocell to detect the amount of light that passes through the solution and applies the Beer–Lambert law, which relates the concentration and the absorbance of light. A colorimeter can have three filters that simulate human vision.
A colorimeter can be used for various purposes, such as:
- Analyzing the quality of printing ink and paper
- Determining the biochemical composition of biological samples
- Measuring the purity and chemical content of water
- Evaluating the color contrast and brightness of screens
- Testing the UV protection level of skin-care products
- Identifying the color and quality of gemstones
- Estimating the amount of hemoglobin in the blood
A colorimeter is different from a spectrophotometer, which measures the intensity of light at different wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum. A colorimeter only measures light in the visible range (400 nm to 700 nm) and uses a single wavelength or a narrow band of wavelengths for each measurement. A spectrophotometer can provide more detailed information about the spectral properties of a solution, but a colorimeter is simpler, cheaper, and faster to use.
A colorimeter is a device that measures the absorbance of a specific wavelength of light by a colored solution. The absorbance is related to the concentration of the solute in the solution by the Beer-Lambert law, which states that:
$$A = \epsilon cl$$
- $A$ is the absorbance or optical density of the solution
- $\epsilon$ is the molar absorptivity coefficient of the solute
- $c$ is the concentration of the solute
- $l$ is the path length of the light through the solution
The principle of colorimetry is based on the fact that different substances absorb different amounts of light at different wavelengths. By selecting a wavelength that is strongly absorbed by the solute of interest and measuring the amount of light that passes through the solution, one can determine the concentration of the solute using a calibration curve.
A colorimeter consists of four main components:
- A light source that produces a beam of white light
- A monochromator that filters out a specific wavelength of light from the beam
- A cuvette that holds the sample solution
- A photodetector that measures the intensity of the transmitted light
The monochromator can be a prism, a grating, or a glass filter that separates the white light into its component colors and allows only one color to pass through. The cuvette is usually made of glass, quartz, or plastic and has a standard size and shape. The photodetector converts the light energy into an electrical signal that can be displayed on a meter or a digital screen.
The operation of a colorimeter is as follows:
- The device is turned on and allowed to warm up for some time
- The wavelength of light is selected by adjusting the monochromator
- The device is calibrated by placing a blank solution (pure solvent) in the cuvette and setting the absorbance to zero
- The sample solution is placed in another cuvette and inserted into the device
- The absorbance or transmittance of the sample solution is read from the meter or screen
- The concentration of the sample solution is calculated using the Beer-Lambert law or a calibration curve
Colorimetry is a simple and inexpensive technique that can be used to measure the concentration of various substances in different fields, such as chemistry, biology, medicine, food, textile, and environmental science. Some examples of applications are:
- Determining the amount of hemoglobin in blood samples
- Measuring the pH of solutions using indicators
- Testing the purity of water by detecting pollutants
- Analyzing the quality of food products by measuring their color
- Evaluating the performance of printing devices by comparing their colors
A colorimeter consists of several parts that work together to measure the absorbance and transmittance of light by a solution. The essential parts of a colorimeter are :
- Light source: It produces light energy of the required intensity throughout the visible range (380-780 nm). Tungsten lamps are commonly used as a light source for visible measurement. And near-infrared ranges. Halogen deuterium lamps are suitable for measurement in the UV range (200-900 nm).
- Slit: It reduces unwanted or stray light by allowing only a narrow beam of light to pass through.
- Condensing lens: It focuses the light beam from the slit onto the filter or monochromator.
- Filter or monochromator: It selects the desired wavelength of light from the polychromatic light source. A filter is a colored glass or gelatin that selectively transmits light in certain ranges of wavelengths. A monochromator is a device that uses a prism or a grating to disperse light into its component wavelengths and then selects one wavelength by an adjustable slit. Filters are simpler and cheaper than monochromators, but they have lower resolution and accuracy.
- Cuvette or sample cell: It holds the solution to be analyzed. It is usually made of glass, quartz, or plastic and has a fixed path length (usually 1 cm). Glass cuvettes are cheap and absorb light of 340 nm wavelength. Quartz cuvettes allow both UV and visible light to pass through. Plastic cuvettes are cheaper, but they are easily scratched and have shorter lifespans.
- Photocell or photodetector: It measures the intensity of light that passes through the solution. It converts light energy into electrical energy. Common types of photodetectors are phototubes, photodiodes, and phototransistors.
- Galvanometer or display: It indicates the output from the photodetector. It can be analog or digital. Analog galvanometers use a needle to show the optical density (OD) or percentage transmittance (%T) of the solution. Digital displays use numbers or graphs to show the same information.
The diagram below shows the basic components of a colorimeter:
Colorimeters are devices that measure the color of a sample by comparing it with a standard or by using filters and detectors to measure light absorption or reflection. There are different types of colorimeters depending on their design, functionality, and application. Some of the common types are:
- Spectrophotometers: These are the most advanced type of colorimeters and can measure the color of light over a wide range of wavelengths. They use a prism or a grating to split the light into different colors and then measure the intensity of each color using a photodetector. Spectrophotometers can provide accurate and detailed information about the spectral properties of a sample, such as its absorbance, transmittance, reflectance, and fluorescence. Spectrophotometers are used for various applications in chemistry, biology, physics, and engineering.
- Photometers: These are less sophisticated than spectrophotometers but can still measure a wide range of colors. They use filters to select a specific wavelength of light and then measure its intensity using a photodetector. Photometers can provide information about the absorbance or transmittance of a sample at a given wavelength. Photometers are used for simple colorimetric analysis, such as measuring the concentration of a colored substance in a solution.
- Chromometers: These are the simplest type of colorimeters and can only measure a limited range of colors. They use color discs or slides that have different shades of colors printed on them. The user compares the color of the sample with the color discs or slides and selects the closest match. Chronometers can provide an approximate estimation of the color of a sample based on visual inspection. Chronometers are used for qualitative analysis, such as grading based on color.
- Tristimulus colorimeters: These are specialized types of colorimeters that measure the tristimulus values of a color. Tristimulus values are numerical representations of how humans perceive colors based on three primary colors: red, green, and blue. Tristimulus colorimeters use three filters that correspond to these primary colors and then measure the intensity of each color using a photodetector. Tristimulus colorimeters can provide information about the hue, saturation, and brightness of a color. Tristimulus colorimeters are used for objective measurement of colors in various industries, such as printing, textile, paint, and cosmetics.
The following steps describe how to operate a colorimeter for measuring the absorbance or transmittance of a sample solution :
- Switch on the device by rotating the power switch knob in a clockwise direction. Allow 15 minutes of warming up time for the colorimeter to stabilize the light source and the detector.
- After the warm-up period, turn the wavelength control knob to select the appropriate wavelength for the sample. The wavelength should match the maximum absorbance of the sample solution.
- Press the mode control key until the light next to "Transmittance" turns on to switch the display mode to transmittance.
- Use the zero control knob to set the display`s T-factor to 0.0%. Make this adjustment while ensuring the sample chamber is empty, and the cover is securely closed.
- Prepare a blank solution that contains all the components of the sample solution except for the substance whose concentration you want to measure. For example, if you want to measure the concentration of a dye in water, use pure water as the blank solution.
- Fill two-thirds of a cuvette with the blank solution. Wipe the cuvette with a clean tissue to remove any fingerprints or dust on its exterior. These can interfere with light transmission and cause inaccurate readings.
- Place the cuvette gently but completely into the cuvette chamber, with the vertical guide line facing in your right direction. The guideline on the cuvette should be aligned with the guideline on the sample chamber by rotating the cuvette 90 degrees in a clockwise direction. This method protects the cuvette from scratches in the light-transmitting portions.
- Close the compartment`s cover and set the display to 100.0% using the transmittance/absorbance control knob. This calibrates the colorimeter with the blank solution as a reference.
- Press the mode control key and switch the status indicator light to read "Absorbance." The display should indicate 0.0 if the transmittance calibration was done correctly. If not, use the transmittance/absorbance control knob to set the display to 0.0. Switch back to transmittance mode using the mode key.
- Remove the cuvette from the compartment by reversing the previous process. Fill another cuvette with your sample solution and wipe it clean as before. Place it inside the chamber as before and close the cover.
- Read the %T value directly from the digital display. Press the mode key and switch to absorbance mode. Read the A value directly from the digital display. Switch back to transmittance mode for further measurements.
- Remove your sample cuvette from the compartment and close its cover. Repeat steps 10-12 for any other sample solutions you want to measure.
A colorimeter is a device that measures the intensity of the color of a solution or a surface and compares it with a standard or a reference. Colorimeters have various applications in different fields, such as:
- Water quality analysis: Colorimeters are used to test the purity and safety of water by screening for chemicals such as chlorine, fluoride, cyanide, dissolved oxygen, iron, molybdenum, zinc, and hydrazine. These chemicals can affect the taste, odor, color, and health effects of water. Colorimeters can also measure the turbidity or cloudiness of water, which indicates the presence of suspended particles or microorganisms.
- Medical and biochemical analysis: Colorimeters are used to estimate the concentration of biochemical samples such as blood, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, plasma, and serum. These samples may contain substances that have a characteristic color or react with a specific reagent to produce a color. For example, colorimeters can measure the amount of hemoglobin in the blood, which is related to the oxygen-carrying capacity and the health status of a person. Colorimeters can also measure the pH or acidity of a solution, which is important for many biological processes.
- Screen display calibration: Colorimeters are used to analyze the color contrast and brightness of screens on mobile devices, computers, and televisions. By adjusting the settings of the screen according to the colorimeter readings, users can obtain the best viewing experience and avoid eye strain or fatigue. Colorimeters can also help ensure the accuracy and consistency of colors across different devices and platforms.
- Printing and textile industries: Colorimeters are used to evaluate the quality and consistency of printing ink and paper. By measuring the color difference between the printed output and the original design, colorimeters can help detect errors or defects in the printing process. Colorimeters can also measure the color-fastness or resistance to fading of fabrics and textiles under different conditions such as washing, sunlight, or rubbing.
- Paint and cosmetic industries: Colorimeters are used to measure the color properties and characteristics of paints and cosmetics. By comparing the colorimeter readings with a standard or a desired color, manufacturers can ensure the quality and uniformity of their products. Colorimeters can also help customers choose the right shade or tone of paint or cosmetic products according to their preferences or skin type.
- Gemstone and jewelry industries: Colorimeters are used to measure the optical properties and qualities of precious stones such as diamonds. By analyzing the hue, saturation, and brightness of a gemstone, colorimeters can help determine its value and authenticity. Colorimeters can also help customers select the best gemstone according to their taste or budget.
A colorimeter is a useful device for measuring the absorbance and transmittance of light by a colored solution. However, like any other instrument, it has some advantages and disadvantages that should be considered before using it. Here are some of them:
- A colorimeter is a quick and inexpensive method of evaluating the quality and concentration of colored samples.
- A colorimeter is easy to carry and transport, as some models are handheld and pocket-sized.
- A colorimeter can make hundreds of measurements with a single set of batteries.
- A colorimeter is simple to operate and does not require much training or calibration.
- A colorimeter cannot analyze colorless compounds or substances that do not absorb visible light.
- A colorimeter does not work in the ultraviolet (UV) or infrared (IR) regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, as it only measures wavelength absorbance in the visible range (400 nm to 700 nm).
- A colorimeter does not provide spectral information about the sample, as it only uses a single wavelength or a narrow range of wavelengths to measure the absorbance.
- A colorimeter may have difficulty measuring samples that have reflective surfaces, as they may interfere with the light beam and cause inaccurate readings.
A colorimeter is a sensitive instrument that requires proper handling and maintenance to ensure accurate and reliable results. Therefore, pay attention to the following points when using a colorimeter:
- Avoid bad operation. Do not shake or shift the instrument during measurement. Do not strike or impact the instrument violently. Do not use it in high-humidity environments or water. Do not make any unauthorized disassembly or modification of the colorimeter.
- Keep the colorimeter properly. When not in use, store the colorimeter in a dry, cool environment and remove the battery to prevent damage to the instrument. Use a soft cloth or cotton swab to clean the instrument and the cuvette chamber. Avoid using organic solvents or corrosive liquids to clean the instrument.
- Regular maintenance of colorimeter. Carry out regular calibration and verification of the colorimeter using standard solutions or filters. Check the wavelength accuracy, transmittance accuracy, and repeatability of the instrument periodically. If any abnormality is found, contact the manufacturer or service provider for repair.
- Choice of colorimeter. Select a colorimeter that suits your application and measurement range. Different colorimeters have different light sources, filters, detectors, and display modes. Choose a colorimeter that can measure the wavelength and color difference of your sample accurately and conveniently.
- Use of cuvette. Use a clean and transparent cuvette that matches the size and shape of the cuvette chamber. Fill the cuvette to the top of the triangular mark or two-thirds full with the sample solution. Wipe off any fingerprints or dirt on the outer surface of the cuvette with a lint-free cloth or tissue. Align the vertical guideline on the cuvette with the guideline on the sample chamber when inserting the cuvette.
- Measurement procedure. Follow the instructions of the user manual or standard operating procedure when measuring with a colorimeter. Turn on the instrument and allow it to warm up for 15 minutes before use. Select the appropriate wavelength and mode for your measurement. Zero the instrument with a blank solution before measuring your sample solution. Read the transmittance or absorbance value from the display directly or calculate it using a calibration curve.
A colorimeter is a device that measures the absorbance of a specific wavelength of light by a colored solution. There are different types of colorimeters that are used for various purposes, such as:
- Handheld colorimeters determine the color of an object, such as checking the actual shade of clothes.
- Chemical colorimeters find the presence of colorless chemicals in water by causing them to develop a color reaction. They then compare the results to a known body of data about the reactions of different substances.
- Gran colorimeters measure the specific color of a gemstone, such as a diamond, ruby, or other valuable stones.
- Densitometers determine the density of a material.
- Spectrophotometers measure the spectral reflectance and transmittance of a surface.
- Tristimulus colorimeters measure the tristimulus values of a color.
Some examples of colorimeter instruments are:
- Laboratory colorimeter CLR-S (Bioevopeak)
- Combining the CIE standard illuminant D65 with the 10° wide viewing field, X10, Y10, and Z10 make up a sample light source.
- Automatic measuring of a substance`s reflected color in the board, powder, and grain forms.
- Printer and LCD RS232 interface.
- Water analysis colorimeter Checker® HC (HANNA Instruments)
- More accurate and user-friendly than chemical test kits.
- Obtaining your results for free chlorine is easy with a single-button operation.
- Excellent for testing the environment, pools, and spas.
- Environmental analysis colorimeter pHotoFlex® (Xylem Analytics)
- Turbidity measurement of 0.01 – 1,100 NTU in accordance with DIN ISO 27027
- Versatile with unique NH3 and CO2 methods
- Special combination with pH and turbidity measurement
- More than 180 programs for standard parameters
- Laboratory colorimeter WPA CO7000 (Biochrom)
- The Biochrom WPA CO7000 is a portable colorimeter used by physicians and medical technicians in small and medium-sized clinics.
- Perfect for field and tropical environments
- A good fit for biological colorimetric analysis
- HunterLab D25 series and ColorTrend HT
- The HunterLab D25 series are handheld colorimeters that measure the color of solid objects such as textiles, plastics, paints, etc.
- The ColorTrend HT is an online colorimeter that measures the color of liquids such as coatings, chemicals, beverages, etc.
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