Skip to main content
University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

Spectra and Spectral Data

Molar Absorption Coefficients

Molar absorption coefficient (ε)
Synonyms: Molar extinction coefficient, Molar absorptivity
"The recommended term for the absorbance for a molar concentration of a substance with a path length of l cm determined at a specific wavelength. Its value is obtained from the equation ε = A / cl
  Strictly speaking, in compliance with SI units the path length should be specified in meters but it is current general practice for centimeters to be used for this purpose.
  Under defined conditions of solvent, pH and temperature the molar absorption coefficient for a particular compound is a constant at the specified wavelength."
-- Denney, R.C. Dictionary of Spectroscopy, 2nd ed.; Wiley: New York, 1982; pp 119-20.


Molar absorptivity
"Synonym: Molar (decadic) absorption coefficient.
Decadic absorbance divided by the path-length l and mole concentration c, of the absorbing material.

ε = A10 / cl.

The molar absorptivity is a Beer-Lambert absorption coefficient. SI unit: m2 mol-1."
-- Handbook of Vibrational Spectroscopy; Chalmers, J.M., Griffiths, P.R. Eds.; Wiley: New York, 2002; Vol.5, p 3772.


"The term molar absorptivity for molar absorption coefficient should be avoided."
-- IUPAC Gold Book


Extinction coefficient
"A term that has been widely used for the molar absorptivity, unfortunately often with values given in ill-defined units. Use of this term has been discouraged since the 1960s, when international agreement with non-chemical societies reserved the word "extinction" for diffusion of radiation, i.e. the sum of the effects of absorption, scattering, and luminescence."
-- Handbook of Vibrational Spectroscopy; Vol.5, p 3760.


"Seldom, if ever, is it safe to assume adherence to Beer's law and use only a single standard to determine the molar absorptivity. It is never a good idea to base the results of an analysis on a literature value for the molar absorptivity."
--Skoog, D.A., Holler, F.J., Crouch, S.R. Principles of Instrumental Analysis, 6th ed.; Brooks/Cole, 2007; p 375.

Literature values of ε and log ε can be found scattered in various handbooks, although they are not always clearly labeled. They generally appear in context with absorption peaks or as the Y axis in spectral plots.

  Organic Compounds

biochemical  Biochemical Substances

inorganic  Inorganic Substances

Absorption coefficients for non-organic substances are rarely reported and very hard to find.  These are the only sources we know of:

Loading ...

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.