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Oil rig   Catalogue of Optical Spectra of Oils
Hengstermann T & R Reuter
Published first in January 1999 by:
Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Institute of Physics, Marine Physics Group, 26129 Oldenburg, Germany
Fluorescence Analyses

Data included in the catalogue were measured with spectrofluorometers, which are a standard equipment in most chemical laboratories. Each substance sample is analyzed with the wavelength parameters given in the table below. Excitation wavelengths are selected according to emission lines of spectroscopic lamps or lasers which are prominently applied for such purposes. Emission is registered with a 1 nm wavelength increment.

The geometrical orientation of the sample cuvette with respect to the excitation and emission ray path differs from the conventional 90 degree configuration und for the analysis of liquids with spectrofluorometers. Because of the high absorbance of samples, the cuvette is oriented such that fluorescence is excited and registered through a single side of the cuvette, with a cuvette holder termed front surface assembly by some manufacturers. This method allows a direct analysis of highly absorbing liquids, avoiding a dilution of samples with organic solvents that might by themselves contribute to the fluorescence signal.

In this configuration, however, particular attention has to be paid to the quality of the cuvette itself: the best available fused silica is required, otherwise fluorescence contributions from the cuvette window obscure the sample fluorescence. For the same reason cuvettes need to be cleaned very carefully following each filling with highly fluorescent samples.

Basic parameters of fluorescence measurements
Wavelengths are given in nanometres.

excitation wavelength excitation bandwidth emission range emission bandwidth
253 5 260-699 3
308 5 320-699 3
337 5 340-699 3
365 5 370-699 3

A crucial requirement for measuring spectra in a reliable way is to perform a careful calibration of the instrument both on the excitation and the emission side of the optical setup. The calibration procedure for a Perkin Elmer spectrofluorometer, as described in detail below, enables us to derive data that are corrected for the spectral sensitivity of the instrument, and allows signals originating from different substances to be related to each other on a relative scale. In principle, each commercially available spectrofluorometer can be calibrated in this or a similar way, and a procedure following these guidelines is mandatory for spectral data to be included in this catalogue.

Absolute calibration of spectra in cross-sectional units like, e.g., cm2/sr is hampered by an apparent lack of standard reference substances which are applicable for this purpose. Therefore, one of the oil samples investigated here, Nigerian Light Crude Oil, is used as the reference material. Its fluorescence emission, integrated from 320 to 699 nm, and excited with 308 nm wavelength, is arbitrarily set to have an efficiency of 1. Spectra of other substances, and also obtained with other excitation wavelengths, are given in ratio to this unit. To enable the user to quantitatively interprete these spectra, and to ensure compatibility of data obtained by different laboratories in future, a sample of Nigerian Light Crude can be made available upon request.

An example: Measuring with the Perkin Elmer Model 650-40 Spectrofluorometer

This instrument was utilized for evaluating the fluorescence spectra of oils, as given in the first edition of the data catalogue. More recent analyses were done with a Perkin Elmer Model LS50 spectrofluorometer. The front surface assembly equipped with 1 cm standard silica cuvettes was applied with these highly absorbing samples. The instrument was run with the parameters listed in the Table above, and with a 60 nm/min wavelength drive and 1 sec integration time. All measurements were performed at room temperature (20°C).

The emission spectrum and the stability of lamp and excitation ray path were controlled daily prior to and following each series of measurements. This was done by means of a fluorescence screen of 0.02 mol/L 1-dimethylaminonaphtalene 5-sulfonate in a solution of NaOH in water. The solution is practically opaque at wavelengths below 350 nm and only slightly absorbing above 450 nm. Hence it follows that, with a constant setting to 500 nm of the detection monochromator, and the excitation monochromator scanning between 250 and 450 nm, the emission of this sample yields a direct measure of the spectral intensity of the excitation path in this wavelength range (Chen, 1967). Since the solution is highly absorbing, the front surface assembly is required.

The same result can also be obtained with Rhodamine B. Its fluorescence band peaking at 600 nm, this material allows an extension of the calibration curve up to the red portion of the spectrum. For this, a concentrated solution of Rhodamine B (3 mg/L in ethylene glycol) is used. The excitation monochromator is scanned from 200 to 600 nm, while the emission monochromator is set to 615 nm.

The stability of the detection system was controlled daily, using a 1 ppm solution of quinine sulfate dihydrate in 0.1 mol/L HClO4 as a fluorescence standard (Velapoldi & Mielenz, 1980). In this way, the long-term stability of the detector setup is found to be better than 2% over a period of 1 month.

Fluorescence emission of quinine sulfate covers a wavelength range of 400 to 550 nm (approx. 10% intensity points of the maximum intensity at 450 nm), and it can therefore be used as a calibration material in this region of the spectrum. For the purpose of calibrating the emission path of the instrument at wavelengths below and above this range other means must be applied. A broad-band calibration is preferably done with a tungsten standard lamp with known brightness temperature. In these measurements an OSRAM WI 9 standard lamp with a 2856 K brightness temperature was used. A black tubus in the ray path between lamp and detector in front of its entrance aperture serves to eliminate possible stray light contributions from the signal. The optical axis of the detection path of rays is controlled with the output beam of a HeNe laser. Position of the tungsten standard is at 5 m distance from the spectrofluorometer. With the OSRAM WI 9 lamp utilized here a calibration down to 350 nm wavelength can be achieved. A further extension down to the UV can be done with a tungsten halogene lamp because of its higher filament temperature and the bulb made of quartz. The emission spectrum of this lamp, if not calibrated, is determined by comparison with the well-known tungsten standard. Brightness temperatures of 3200 K typically allow its use as a calibration source down to 300 nm or even lower wavelengths.


Chen R F, 1967. Practical aspects of the calibration and use of the Aminco-Bowman Spectrophotofluorometer. Analytical Biochemistry, 20: 339-357

Velapoldi R A & K D Mielenz, 1980. A Fluorescence Standard Reference Material: Quinine Sulfate Dihydrate. NBS Special Publication SP260-64, National Bureau of Standards, Washington, DC, 139 pp.