Infrared (IR) spectroscopy is widely used in chemical detection and analysis owning to its superior specificity and sensitivity. Molecules can be identified/detected by their unique optical absorption characteristics. Traditionally, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometers are used, however they are bench-top instruments typically used in controlled laboratory environments. Miniaturization of those FTIRs and making them portable for field use is very attractive for range of applications include food quality assessment, environmental monitoring, and point of care testing. However, a FTIR is essentially an optical interferometer that contains moving mirrors, and it is delicate requiring high precision alignment / positioning and is vulnerable to external disturbances. These collectively make the miniaturization of a FTIR while maintaining its high spectral resolution at IR wavelengths challenging. This technology is similar to FTIR in terms of using a single-element detector not a detector array. Hence it works at IR spectrum where array detectors are expensive and less sensitive. Similar to FTIR, it also has the multiplexing advantage hence high SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) in detection. Different from FTIR, it is not an optical interferometer. Hence it is less sensitive to positioning errors and external disturbances, thereby facilitating miniaturization at the same time maintaining a satisfactory spectral resolution.
This technology could be used to develop handheld infrared (IR) spectrometers with high spectral resolution for field uses in ranges of applications include, but are not limited to, industrial process control, materials (especially polymers and plastics) identification and verification, environment monitoring, sensors for internet of things (IoTs), biomedical point of care testing, food and beverage quality assessment, analysis of coatings and films, forensics and law enforcement, as well as pharmaceutical research and drug development.
The technology potentially enables high spectral resolution portable infrared (IR) spectrometers that may facilitate on-site detection and analysis of materials in real-time. It can be constructed with relatively low cost. The business opportunities include stand-alone handheld modules or portable spectrometer modules in combination with smart phones for a range of new possibilities for sensing in agriculture, environment monitoring, healthcare, industrial process monitoring, and many others.