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Other Names Colourimeter
Uses Concentration measurement, display calibration
Inventor Jan Szczepanik
Related Spectrophotometer

A colorimeter, an instrument used in colorimetry, can refer to one of several related devices. In scientific fields the word generally refers to the device that measures the absorbance of particular wavelengths of light by a specific solution. This device, invented by Jan Szczepanik, is most commonly used to determine the concentration of a known solute in a given solution by the application of the Beer-Lambert law, which states that the concentration of a solute is proportional to the absorbance. Other devices, also called colorimeters, are used in graphic design to calibrate display devices and printers.



The essential parts of a colorimeter are:

  • a light source (often an ordinary low-voltage filament lamp)
  • an adjustable aperture
  • a set of colored filters
  • a cuvette to hold the working solution
  • a detector (usually a photoresistor) to measure the transmitted light
  • a meter to display the output from the detector

In addition, there may be:

  • a voltage regulator, to protect the instrument from fluctuations in mains voltage.
  • a second light path, cuvette and detector. This enables comparison between the working solution and a "blank", consisting of pure solvent, to improve accuracy.


Changeable optics filters are used in the colorimeter to select the wavelength of light which the solute absorbs the most, in order to maximize accuracy. The usual wavelength range is from 400 to 700 nanometres (nm). If it is necessary to operate in the ultraviolet range (below 400 nm) then some modifications to the colorimeter are needed. In modern colorimeters the filament lamp and filters may be replaced by several light-emitting diodes of different colors.


Main article: Cuvette

In a manual colorimeter the cuvettes are inserted and removed by hand. An automated colorimeter (as used in an AutoAnalyzer) is fitted with a flowcell through which solution flows continuously.


The output from a colorimeter may be displayed by an analogue or digital meter and may be shown as transmittance (a linear scale from 0-100%) or as absorbance (a logarithmic scale from zero to infinity). The useful range of the absorbance scale is from 0-2 but it is desirable to keep within the range 0-1 because, above 1, the results become unreliable due to scattering of light.

In addition, the output may be sent to a chart recorder, data logger, or computer.

Graphic design

In graphic design, colorimeters are used to generate color profiles for equipment in the workflow. Accurate color profiles are important to ensure that screen displays match the final printed products.

See also

  • AutoAnalyzer
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Colorimeter". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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