The groundbreaking Spectronic 20 was born 50 years ago, and - thanks to its versatility, adaptability and ruggedness - is still manufactured today
The Spectronic 20 pioneered the field of low-cost grating
spectrophotometers for industry, research and education.
half a million instruments have been sold since its launch in
1953, which is testament to its versatility, adaptability and
ruggedness - it has truly stood the test of time.
groundbreaking analytical tool is still manufactured today by
Thermo Electron, and has remained in laboratories as an essential
tool through five decades of rapid technological development.
continues to be used worldwide for teaching purposes and a number
of core industrial applications including water testing, food and
beverage, chemical quality control, biological fluids, drug, soil
and fertiliser analyses.
Affectionately nicknamed the Spec 20,
this instrument opened spectrophotometry up as an analysis
technique to a wider range of analytical and teaching
In this respect, the Spec 20 accelerated the move
towards instrumental analytical chemistry in areas where, for
cost implications, wet analytical chemistry would normally have
The longevity of the Spec 20 system is due to the
quality of its design, says Thermo.
Once established in teaching
institutions and analytical laboratories, it was rapidly adopted
by the industrial market as the most practical and reliable
Today, visible and UV-visible
spectrophotometers are a permanent fixture in almost every
analytical laboratory around the world.
basic appearance has changed very little over the years.
Nevertheless, its analysis power has continued to improve,
integrating up-to-date developments such as the latest grating
technology for improved optical performance, lamps with longer
lifetimes, and optical mirror coatings for improved resistance to
deterioration and damage.
Readings have progressively been made
more accurate with the introduction of larger meters and digital
LED displays, sophisticated PC software and Lims
interfaces now offer data manipulation, acquisition, storage,
recording and archiving capabilities.
This functionality has
ensured the continued reliability and accuracy of the Spectronic
20 and contributed to its usefulness.
Not only has the Spec 20
been a star performer in the laboratory, it also had a cameo role
in the movie, Back to the Future.
It appeared in a scene as one
of the few surviving pieces of equipment in the laboratory that
was destroyed by an explosion resulting from an errant
A fitting tribute to a product that has continually
'performed under fire' and over time.