Science, Tech, Math › Science Absorbance Definition in Chemistry Measuring How a Sample Interacts With Light Share Flipboard Email Print Spectrophotometers are instruments that may measure absorbance. Eugenio Marongiu / Getty Images Science Chemistry Chemical Laws Basics Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated December 06, 2018 Absorbance is a measure of the quantity of light absorbed by a sample. It is also known as optical density, extinction, or decadic absorbance. The property is measured using spectroscopy, particularly for quantitative analysis. Typical units of absorbance are called "absorbance units," which have the abbreviation AU and are dimensionless. Absorbance is calculated based on either the amount of light reflected or scattered by a sample or by the amount transmitted through a sample. If all light passes through a sample, none was absorbed, so the absorbance would be zero and the transmission would be 100%. On the other hand, if no light passes through a sample, the absorbance is infinite and the percent transmission is zero. The Beer-Lambert law is used to calculate absorbance: A = ebc Where A is absorbance (no units, A = log10 P0 / P)e is the molar absorptivity with units of L mol-1 cm-1b is the path length of the sample, usually the length of a cuvette in centimetersc is the concentration of a solute in solution, expressed in mol/L Sources IUPAC (1997). Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. (the "Gold Book").Zitzewitz, Paul W. (1999). Glencoe Physics. New York, N.Y.: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. p. 395. ISBN 0-02-825473-2.