Absorption cross section
Absorption cross section is a measure for the probability of an absorption process. More generally, the term cross section
Cross section (physics)
A cross section is the effective area which governs the probability of some scattering or absorption event. Together with particle density and path length, it can be used to predict the total scattering probability via the Beer-Lambert law....

 is used in physics to quantify the probability of a certain particle-particle interaction, e.g., scattering
Scattering is a general physical process where some forms of radiation, such as light, sound, or moving particles, are forced to deviate from a straight trajectory by one or more localized non-uniformities in the medium through which they pass. In conventional use, this also includes deviation of...

, electromagnetic absorption
Absorption (electromagnetic radiation)
In physics, absorption of electromagnetic radiation is the way by which the energy of a photon is taken up by matter, typically the electrons of an atom. Thus, the electromagnetic energy is transformed to other forms of energy for example, to heat. The absorption of light during wave propagation is...

, etc. (Note that light in this context is described as consisting of particle
Elementary particle
In particle physics, an elementary particle or fundamental particle is a particle not known to have substructure; that is, it is not known to be made up of smaller particles. If an elementary particle truly has no substructure, then it is one of the basic building blocks of the universe from which...

s, i.e., photon
In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...


In the context of ozone
Ozone , or trioxygen, is a triatomic molecule, consisting of three oxygen atoms. It is an allotrope of oxygen that is much less stable than the diatomic allotrope...

 shielding of ultraviolet light, absorption cross section is the ability of a molecule
A molecule is an electrically neutral group of at least two atoms held together by covalent chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their electrical charge...

 to absorb a photon of a particular wavelength
In physics, the wavelength of a sinusoidal wave is the spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats.It is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings, and is a...

 and polarization. Analogously, in the context of nuclear engineering
Nuclear engineering
Nuclear engineering is the branch of engineering concerned with the application of the breakdown as well as the fusion of atomic nuclei and/or the application of other sub-atomic physics, based on the principles of nuclear physics...

 it refers to the probability of a particle (usually a neutron
The neutron is a subatomic hadron particle which has the symbol or , no net electric charge and a mass slightly larger than that of a proton. With the exception of hydrogen, nuclei of atoms consist of protons and neutrons, which are therefore collectively referred to as nucleons. The number of...

) being absorbed by a nucleus. Although the units are given as an area, it does not refer to an actual size area, at least partially because the density
The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

 or state of the target molecule will affect the probability
Probability is ordinarily used to describe an attitude of mind towards some proposition of whose truth we arenot certain. The proposition of interest is usually of the form "Will a specific event occur?" The attitude of mind is of the form "How certain are we that the event will occur?" The...

 of absorption. Quantitatively, the number dN of photons absorbed, between the points x and x + dx along the path of a beam is the product of the number N of photons penetrating to depth x times the number n of absorbing molecules per unit volume times the absorption cross section σ:

The absorption cross-section is closely related to mass absorption coefficient. For a given particle and its energy, the absorption cross-section of the target material can be calculated from mass absorption coefficient using:

  • is the mass absorption coefficient
  • is the atomic molar mass
    Atomic mass
    The atomic mass is the mass of a specific isotope, most often expressed in unified atomic mass units. The atomic mass is the total mass of protons, neutrons and electrons in a single atom....

     in g/mol
  • is Avogadro's number
    Avogadro's number
    In chemistry and physics, the Avogadro constant is defined as the ratio of the number of constituent particles N in a sample to the amount of substance n through the relationship NA = N/n. Thus, it is the proportionality factor that relates the molar mass of an entity, i.e...

     and is the number of molecules per mole

This is also commonly expressed as:

  • is the absorption coefficient
  • is the atomic density in cm-3

See also

  • Cross section (physics)
    Cross section (physics)
    A cross section is the effective area which governs the probability of some scattering or absorption event. Together with particle density and path length, it can be used to predict the total scattering probability via the Beer-Lambert law....

  • Photoionisation cross section
    Photoionisation cross section
    Photoionisation cross section in the context of condensed matter physics refers to the probability of a particle being emitted from its electronic state.- Cross section in photoemission :...

  • Nuclear cross section
    Nuclear cross section
    The nuclear cross section of a nucleus is used to characterize the probability that a nuclear reaction will occur. The concept of a nuclear cross section can be quantified physically in terms of "characteristic area" where a larger area means a larger probability of interaction...

  • Scattering cross-section
    Scattering cross-section
    The scattering cross-section, σscat, is a hypothetical area which describes the likelihood of light being scattered by a particle. In general, the scattering cross-section is different from the geometrical cross-section of a particle, and it depends upon the wavelength of light and the...

  • Neutron cross section
  • Mean free path
    Mean free path
    In physics, the mean free path is the average distance covered by a moving particle between successive impacts which modify its direction or energy or other particle properties.-Derivation:...

  • Compton edge
    Compton edge
    In spectrophotometry, the Compton edge is a feature of the spectrograph that results from the Compton scattering in the scintillator or detector. When a gamma-ray scatters off the scintillator but escapes, only a fraction of its energy is registered by the detector. This leads to a spectrum of...

  • Compton scattering
    Compton scattering
    In physics, Compton scattering is a type of scattering that X-rays and gamma rays undergo in matter. The inelastic scattering of photons in matter results in a decrease in energy of an X-ray or gamma ray photon, called the Compton effect...

  • Transmittance
    In optics and spectroscopy, transmittance is the fraction of incident light at a specified wavelength that passes through a sample. A related term is absorptance, or absorption factor, which is the fraction of radiation absorbed by a sample at a specified wavelength...

  • Attenuation
    In physics, attenuation is the gradual loss in intensity of any kind of flux through a medium. For instance, sunlight is attenuated by dark glasses, X-rays are attenuated by lead, and light and sound are attenuated by water.In electrical engineering and telecommunications, attenuation affects the...

  • Beer-Lambert law
    Beer-Lambert law
    In optics, the Beer–Lambert law, also known as Beer's law or the Lambert–Beer law or the Beer–Lambert–Bouguer law relates the absorption of light to the properties of the material through which the light is travelling.-Equations:The law states that there is a logarithmic dependence between the...

  • High energy X-rays
    High energy X-rays
    High energy X-rays or HEX-rays are very hard X-rays, with typical energies of 80 keV - 1000 keV , about one order of magnitude higher than conventional X-rays . They are produced at modern synchrotron radiation sources such as the beamline ID15 at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility...

  • Attenuation coefficient
    Attenuation coefficient
    The attenuation coefficient is a quantity that characterizes how easily a material or medium can be penetrated by a beam of light, sound, particles, or other energy or matter. A large attenuation coefficient means that the beam is quickly "attenuated" as it passes through the medium, and a small...

  • Absorption spectroscopy
    Absorption spectroscopy
    Absorption spectroscopy refers to spectroscopic techniques that measure the absorption of radiation, as a function of frequency or wavelength, due to its interaction with a sample. The sample absorbs energy, i.e., photons, from the radiating field. The intensity of the absorption varies as a...

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