Photoacoustic spectroscopy is the measurement of the effect of absorbed electromagnetic energy (particularly of light) on matter by means of acoustic detection. The discovery of the photoacoustic effect dates to 1880 when Alexander Graham Bell showed that thin discs emitted sound when exposed to a beam of sunlight that was rapidly interrupted with a rotating slotted disk. The absorbed energy from the light causes local heating and through thermal expansion a pressure wave or sound. Later Bell showed that materials exposed to the non-visible portions of the solar spectrum (i.e., the infrared and the ultraviolet) can also produce sounds.

A photoacoustic spectrum of a sample can be recorded by measuring the sound at different wavelengths of the light. This spectrum can be used to identify the absorbing components of the sample. The photoacoustic effect can be used to study solids, liquids and gases


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