1) In text books, the absorption event is usually described by a figure shown below1: light excites electrons to higher states in atom or molecule. The difference between the ground state and the excited one matches the energy of the absorbed light. But electron states in atoms and molecules should be quantized, so why do we observe absorbance spectra that are smooth and continuous but not spiked and quantized?
2) Where does the energy go when the excited electron returns to its normal state? In fluorescence, the electrons return to lower states and excite light at higher wavelength than the absorbed one. But if I had a molecule that did not exhibit fluorescence, just plain absorption, does the molecule emit light at the same wavelength it absorbed or does the energy turn to heat? I mean, the electron cannot be excited forever.
3) What is the physical phenomenon behind absorption coefficient? I have been thinking that it has something to do with the lifetime of the excited state – shorter lifetimes increase the probability of a photon to be absorbed, resulting in larger coefficients. Am I completely wrong?
1Image taken from http://www.photobiology.info/Visser-Rolinski.html