Journal of Fluorescence

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 793–807 | Cite as

Ruby Crystal for Demonstrating Time- and Frequency-Domain Methods of Fluorescence Lifetime Measurements

  • Danielle E. Chandler
  • Zigurts K. Majumdar
  • Gregor J. Heiss
  • Robert M. Clegg
Original Paper


We present experiments that are convenient and educational for measuring fluorescence lifetimes with both time- and frequency-domain methods. The sample is ruby crystal, which has a lifetime of about 3.5 milliseconds, and is easy to use as a class-room demonstration. The experiments and methods of data analysis are used in the lab section of a class on optical spectroscopy, where we go through the theory and applications of fluorescence. Because the fluorescence decay time of ruby is in the millisecond region, the instrumentation for this experiment can be constructed easily and inexpensively compared to the nanosecond-resolved instrumentation required for most fluorescent compounds, which have nanosecond fluorescence lifetimes. The methods are applicable to other luminescent compounds with decay constants from microseconds and longer, such as transition metal and lanthanide complexes and phosphorescent samples. The experiments, which clearly demonstrate the theory and methods of measuring temporally resolved fluorescence, are instructive and demonstrate what the students have learned in the lectures without the distraction of highly sophisticated instrumentation.


Fluorescence Luminescence Lifetimes Time-domain Frequency-domain Phosphorescence Ruby Phase Modulation Lockin 



We thank the students of the Physics 590OS optical spectroscopy class for their enthusiastic participation, Ulai Noomnarm and Chittanon Buranachai for reading the manuscript and giving feedback, Jack Bopari, the director of the undergraduate teaching laboratories in the Physics department, for his generosity loaning equipment and the ruby sample, Eugene Colla for assistance assembling Setup 1 for partial fulfillment of the senior thesis project of DEC, and RMC thanks Gerard Marriott for his enjoyable participation years ago when the idea of listening to phosphorescence lifetimes was born.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Danielle E. Chandler
    • 1
  • Zigurts K. Majumdar
    • 1
  • Gregor J. Heiss
    • 1
  • Robert M. Clegg
    • 1
  1. 1.Physics DepartmentUniversity of Illinois Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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