Review of New Spectroscopic Instrumentation 2016

May 01, 2016
Volume 31, Issue 5, pg 40–62

Our annual review of new spectroscopy products introduced at Pittcon or during the previous year.

 


Here we present our annual review of new spectroscopy instruments, components, and accessories, including our assessment of what these new products reveal about instrumentation trends.

In the past, our annual review was restricted to products introduced at the Pittsburgh Conference (Pittcon). A few years ago, however, we began including products introduced independently of Pittcon, reflecting the fact that vendors are increasingly launching their products at a variety of conferences and trade shows and sometimes without any connection to an event. Thus, we are reviewing products released at Pittcon (the vast majority that appear here) as well as other products launched in the last 12 months.

For many reasons, Pittcon attendance has been decreasing in recent years. The attendance in 2016 was down more than 10%, with 12,841 official attendees (7374 conferees, 5082 exhibitors, and 385 other registrants) versus 14,272 in 2015. The exposition remains strong, with 846 exhibiting companies occupying 1538 booths (http://pittcon.org/exposition, click on “all exhibitors”). Out of all the exhibors, 129 companies were listed as being new to the show. (A full breakdown and comparison with previous Pittcon events is available at http://pittcon.org/exhibitor/pittcon-demographics/.) We note that this year Pittcon did not present the Editor’s Choice awards; we hope this program will return in the future.

The review that follows is organized alphabetically (with the exception of accessories and components, both of which appear at the end) and categorized by wavelength region or type of spectroscopy (that is, mid-infrared [mid-IR], X-ray, Raman, and so forth). This structure allows readers to compare instruments from different manufacturers, but it also sometimes classes handhelds with high-end research tools. The categories used to classify the products are

  • Atomic spectroscopy
  • Imaging
  • Mass spectrometry (MS)
  • Mid-IR spectroscopy
  • Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Software
  • UV–visible spectroscopy
  • X-ray
  • Accessories
  • Components

Some of these categories (such as imaging) did not appear in last year’s review, while others that appeared last year (fluorescence) are missing this year, reflecting the ebb and flow of product development emphasis. In our taxonomy, “accessories” and “components” are inherently very general categories. The dividing line is this: “Accessories” (such as a sampling device) are used with an instrument, whereas “components” (such as a laser source or detector) are part of an instrument. The “software” category is focused on software developed independently from instruments, rather than software built to drive a particular instrument.

The Broad Trends

Instrumentation is evolving to cover an ever wider array of scientific problems, with a lot of activity at two extremes: At one end, the position of high-end instrumentation remains solid—witness the increasing resolution of mass spectrometers. On the other end, routine and field analyses are increasingly being taken over by handheld or portable devices.

This latter trend was the topic of two sessions at Pittcon, one on portable spectrometers and another on spectrometers driven by cell phones—and even cell phones as spectrometers. Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR), Raman, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), and even NMR and MS systems are finding their way into the smaller footprints. In this approach, the standard attached computer is being replaced by “smart” devices, where the sensing, control, and analysis (that is, what is the answer?) are contained within the sensor.

The resulting stand-alone devices are far less limited than one would expect. However, these devices are not competitive with their larger, benchtop cousins in terms of sensitivity, signal-to-noise ratio, analytical performance, or other specifications. For instance, the small-footprint NMR devices are not yet capable of two-dimensional (2D) NMR. A major driving force, noted in last year’s review, involves the “analyzer” class of devices, where a specific customer need is met by a dedicated device; whereas benchtop units typically strive for flexibility, the portables are drilling down to an analytical need. It is noteworthy that while many of these devices started with small start-up companies, many are now part of mainstream analytical companies (such as Ahura and PicoSpin at Thermo Fisher Scientific, SensIR at Smiths Detection, and A2 at Agilent Technologies).

Instruments are also evolving to detect components in even smaller sampling sizes. Microliter sampling is now easy (Thermo Fisher Scientific) and both Raman and IR have been coupled with atomic force microscopes. Commercial fluorescence microscopes offer single-molecule detection (SMD) capabilities, and recent work in academic circles promises a broader range of SMD tools within the next few years.

Some devices, such as diamond attenuated total reflection (ATR) accessories for FT-IR and handheld Raman instruments, were launched in 2016 by multiple vendors. Obviously, all identified the same market need. Whether the market will provide a sustainable customer base for so many different vendors with generally the same offerings is not yet clear.

The Products

Each section of the review includes a brief discussion of interesting new products in the category and any salient trends. The corresponding table lists all the products in the category, in alphabetical order, and summarizes unique features. As noted earlier, the accessories and components sections are not listed alphabetically this year; instead they appear at the end.

As in the past, it is inevitable that some categories include products that might arguably be classified elsewhere, especially in regards to accessories, components, and software. Even some hyphenated techniques, such as inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) could be listed in either location. In such cases, the authors respected the classification given by the manufacturer.

“Imaging” represents a unique challenge. All imaging instruments use some underlying technology to create the images. There were enough products identified as “imaging” to warrant a separate category this year, but some imaging instruments (such as Raman imaging instruments) will be found under the corresponding technology; readers will need to check both categories. Readers also can search by company name in Table I to see under which categories a given company’s products are listed. A few products based on multiple technologies are listed in more than one category.


 

Atomic Spectroscopy

At a high level, the key evolution within atomic spectroscopy (Table II) appears to involve the incorporation of new technologies—such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) into the same core instrument design. As another example of the incorporation of new technologies, Agilent’s ICP-OES system uses a dichroic spectral combiner to run samples faster.

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Looking at the other specific offerings this year, we see that four companies are offering LIBS instruments. Elemission’s instrument can analyze rocks of any form and size, either clean or with dirt, water, and so forth, at 100 spectra/s. The instrument from LTB Lasertechnik Berlin GmbH has very high spectral resolution (50,000 over the range 250–900 nm). B&W Tek has launched a handheld LIBS instrument. A new product from rap.ID combines LIBS with optical microscopy.

Horiba is showing two novel technologies. Its innovative glow-discharge instrument measures layer thickness and crater depth. The company also has a nondispersive analyzer for carbon and sulfur. Shimadzu has an ICP-MS instrument with reduced gas consumption. Teledyne Leeman Labs provides an ICP-OES instrument for environmental applications. Agilent’s ICP-MS system includes optimization tools to simplify method development and operation.

Imaging

In previous years, a paucity of imaging products prevented our including this section in our review. Activity in 2016 enables us to reinstate this section (Table III).

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The term imaging can be applied to many fields, including visible image collection, spectroscopy, and NMR. The result is a hypercube of data, often including spatial relationships. Visible imaging, especially for use in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), now commonly known as drones, was specifically mentioned (by Headwall Photonics and BaySpec). This is a first step, we think, because the combination of handheld technology, imaging technology, and UAV operations should lead to increasingly sophisticated, low-cost, environmental monitoring tools. Aircraft do this already, but now tools are coming on-line for cost-effective UAV mounting. Wastewater effluent tracking and deforestation are two other exciting applications for this combined technology.

Andor showed an ultrafast platform for nanosecond time-resolved imaging and spectroscopy, using a unique combination of frame rates from 40 up to 4000 fps with better than 2-ns gating. Bayspec provides push-broom and snapshot models of high-performance mobile systems. Headwall Photonics has a unit designed for image collection from airborne platforms.

Middleton showed a combined hyperspectral and fluorescence imager. Optical Support presented a near-IR fluorescence system. Bruker BioSpin manufactures a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) device with a 3-T magnet.

Mass Spectrometry

We received very few submissions for the MS category (Table IV), although MS is a popular and highly competitive market space. The likely explanation is that the major instrument companies that manufacture these complicated and expensive instruments primarily launch them at the Annual Conference on Mass Spectrometry and Allied Topics (ASMS) or other mass spectrometry conferences and did not submit forms for us to consider them for this review.

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Thus, we have two products to include in this category this year. In connection with portability of instruments, Bayspec has a mass spectrometer that can be carried by one person. Cerno Bioscience provides a mass spectrometer with sub-part-per-million mass accuracy.

 

Mid-IR
Most of the new FT-IR products (Table V) match the theme we identified involving tools for specific types of analysis. Some new products were highly application-specific: Biotools launched a protein structure analyzer, optimized for that application. Block Engineering combines a mid-IR laser spectrometer with photoacoustics for a sensitive multigas analyzer. Bruker Optik has a gas analyzer for monitoring smokestacks, auto exhaust, and more. Gasera also has a photoacoustic gas analyzer for trace gas monitoring. Others involved general purpose FT-IR devices designed to be incorporated into process control or other specific applications: Keit manufactures a rugged, no-moving-parts spectrometer for direct insertion into production equipment. Thermo Fisher Scientific provides a gas analyzer to fit into a standard 19-in. rack. PerkinElmer manufactures an instrument designed for scientists in academia, pharmaceuticals, and more.

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Agilent provides a mobile device with minimum weight (5 lb) and other characteristics to enhance the user experience.

With the horsepower race (signal-to-noise ratio) in mid-IR having reached limits beyond what most normal applications require, the main developments in this area appear to be related to usability and software tools. Usability improvements included a sample compartment microscope (Czitek) and new accessories (Harrick, Specac). Software is discussed in a separate section below, but we note here that the instrument control interfaces for many vendors are changing, driven by both customer expectations (the cell phone experience) and software platform obsolescence.

NIR

NIR Trends

The general trend in NIR instrumentation (Table VI), which started slowly a good while back and has been growing steadily since, is for manufacturers to provide instruments precalibrated for specific commodities or ingredients that their customers want to measure. This would remove one of the biggest impediments to selling NIR instrumentation: the need for development of a calibration around new products and analyses. Specific analyzers allow users to perform additional analyses, often with lower total costs and much faster implementation. Increasingly, the value is driven less by hardware—which is often already good enough—than by the sets of calibration models that the manufacturer can supply to the user. Sometimes these new calibration models are offered in conjunction with extra algorithmic capabilities, but often they are simply adjunct to the algorithms already available.

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Driven by this analyzer market, NIR products have been evolving quickly toward smaller sizes. This is most obvious from the number of handhelds appearing each year, with slightly different value propositions and performance, but with the same end goal of supplying a simple tool for a targeted analysis. Benchtop instruments are also coming down in size and cost. We are currently seeing components like broadband LED sources and specialized detectors driving this trend, and the increase in specialized detectors and sources we note in the components section will accelerate this move into even more specialized niches.

New NIR Products

ABB offers in-line monitoring and control of continuous processes. B&W Tek’s instrument has a capability of combining NIR with UV–vis measurements. Galaxy Scientific improves the analytical results of its portable instrument by having permanently aligned optics. Viavi has an ultracompact instrument made for maximum portability. Ocean Optics offers high performance at a low price using uncooled InGaAs array detectors that can also measure and report transmission, absorbance, reflectance, color, radiometer, solar measurement fluorescence, Raman spectroscopy, and radiometery. Spectral Evolution also has a field-portable radiometer with no moving optical parts.

Several manufacturers launched tools for dedicated applications this year. Real-Time Analyzers offers a tool that can determine fuel quality as well as chemical and physical properties of multiple diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, and so forth, using transmission. Thermo Fisher Scientific addresses routine analysis with transmission and reflection measurement capabilities. Shimadzu offers functional NIR (fNIR) for blood oxygen and other medically important analyses.

Several offerings in this category were aimed at original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Stellarnet has an instrument for OEMs and sensing applications. Texas Instruments also addresses OEMs with the TI DLP technology that uses single-element InGaAs detectors. Si-Ware offers the most compact and lowest-cost FT-IR system available. Tiger Optics measures various gaseous components to parts-per-billion levels.

NMR and ESR

As seen last year, there are only a few vendors working with NMR (Table VII), and the key innovations are primarily aimed at the benchtop instrument market. The high-end market largely belongs to one major vendor (Bruker), but several companies (such as Bruker, Magritek, and Thermo Fisher Scientific) delivered small-frame instruments based on permanent magnets, now that advances in materials have reached the point where permanent magnets of adequate strength and uniformity are possible. The original evolution of this, exemplified by the PicoSpin products (now Thermo Fisher Scientific), involved moderately performing instruments designed to give only the simplest of answers. Competition is now driving improved specifications and higher field magnets with more sensitivity. Most vendors this year introduced a reaction monitoring application, where the specificity of NMR is harnessed to provide insights into reacting mixtures and industrial processes.

The long-range evolution of NMR will be limited only by the field strength of the magnets and the stability of the fields generated. Pulse sequences and two-dimensional transforms are already implemented on high-field devices, so improved magnets could bring these techniques onto the benchtop in the not too distant future.

Bruker’s Biospin offers benchtop systems with novel solutions (including a dedicated food analyzer) and dedicated software. Magritek also has a benchtop instrument without cryogens or needing to spin the sample. An instrument from Thermo Fisher Scientific requires only a 40-µL sample, and the instrument can be hand-carried.

Raman

We would argue, based on what we have seen preparing this review, that no other product line has shown a greater number and variety of tools coming into the market than Raman spectroscopy (Table VIII). There are two broad classes of tools: the large, benchtop instruments (such as those products launched by BaySpec, Renishaw, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and WITec) and the handhelds (such as those launched by BaySpec, BioTools, Metrohm, and Thermo Fisher Scientific).

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The benchtop instruments stress spatial resolution (sub-1-µm), polarization, and high-speed imaging enabled by electron multiplying charge coupled devices (EMCCDs). These instruments are aimed at the materials sciences and research markets.

Meanwhile, the handheld market is being driven by the availability of small, lower-power consumption lasers, miniature monochromators, and polychromators and detectors (see the component section). Here the commercial role is materials identification, where vendors speak of penetration through glass and plastic containers, insensitivity to water (one bane of infrared), and answers consisting of identification rather than just spectra.

In both cases, a major competitive edge is claimed based on software. The ability to collect the data is similar—the manufacturers are all using similar components—so the differentiation comes in the user experience. Researchers who like to tinker can find open tool sets while a user seeking a simple answer (to a question such as, “Is the sample safe or dangerous?”) can get it. There is much debate over which laser works best, or whether a front-illuminated EMCCD is better than a rear-illuminated one, but most users will see the software and automation as key decision points.

Raman will continue to change rapidly, we feel, as it becomes embedded in both industrial processes and hyphenated research tools, such as rheometry–Raman. This trend toward ongoing change will be driven by further developments in the components and software tools driving them.

Configurable for Dedicated Applications

Many new products this year are configurable for dedicated applications. Avantes customizes the instrument to the application by bundling software, probe, and application-specific recommendations. Raptor Photonics has a configurable instrument with a choice of sensors, coatings, windows, cooling options, and interface for OEM use. BaySpec directs various instrument models to different types of applications by emphasizing different characteristics: ruggedness, precision measurements, or microspectroscopy. Ibsen Photonics also offers a ruggedized instrument.

BioTools offers a 532-nm laser, an unconventional laser for handhelds, with tools to minimize the impact of fluorescence. Cobalt Light has spatially offset capability for its Raman instrument. Technospex combines Raman, photoluminescence, and laser-induced fluorescence in one instrument. Kaiser Optical provides high-resolution, research-grade Raman spectra on a portable platform. WITec provides a confocal micro-Raman system for 2D and three-dimensional (3D) analysis of the smallest sample volumes. Metrohm uses a laser with a Class 1 safety rating and orbital raster scanning. Renishaw uses feedback to follow the height of the sample. Thermo Fisher Scientific offers submicrometer resolution images for morphological and structural information.

Software

Software (Table IX), in the context of this review, consists of several different types of products. The first type consists of actual computer programs: the sequences of instructions that computers use to carry out their functions. The second consists of various types of data. One important subcategory of the latter consists of actual databases: sets of related data that can be used in a manner similar to dictionaries or encyclopedias—as compendia of important facts and relationships among those facts. A third type of product that we would include under the “software” heading is somewhat unique to the fact that spectroscopy is heavily dependent on chemometric algorithms; this third type of software consists of the models or collections of models (a “database” of models) that can be used by the chemometrics algorithms to analyze future samples; many of these, however, are unique to a particular manufacturer’s spectrometers. This category tends to be promoted by instrument manufacturers to further their interest in selling instruments without requiring users to calibrate them. The final type of software is not readily definable, but consists of a miscellaneous group of offerings that provide something other than hardware (for example, nondigitized spectral libraries).

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Software continues to respond to—and indeed to some extent, guide—the evolution of the laboratory requirements. Several vendors released software targeting specific applications (such as Bio-Rad, BioTools, and Texas Instruments), while others (such as ACD/Labs and Autoscribe Informatics) released products targeting information from spectra to sales team training. In the instrument field, software is often released in conjunction with instrument releases (seen in the examples of Texas Instruments and Harrick Scientific). Increasingly, the line between hardware-driven specifications (like signal-to-noise ratio) and software specifications (such as multicomponent searching) is being blurred in the competitive landscape, as vendors recognize and respond to specific customer demands. In many applications, spectra are no longer shown; just search or quantitative results are shown. Large databases (such as those offered by Bio-Rad and Fiveash Data Management) are also available; without these, the searching algorithm is like an empty box.

Based on discussions we had with vendors at Pittcon, it appears that the future of spectroscopy software will hold increased cloud computing and data storage, although data security and integrity continue to be major concerns (especially in the pharmaceutical industry). Simultaneously, the power of stand-alone instruments with built-in computing and analysis software is increasing, especially in handhelds but also in small benchtop instruments.

Integration Products

ACD Labs provides software to combine spectra and data from different techniques for simultaneous analysis. ASD’s offering can collect data from two instruments simultaneously to allow correction of varying sky conditions. Software from Autoscribe Informatics can track assets, help-desk issues, staff management, customer feedback, and other administrative tasks. B&W Tek’s software, together with its Raman spectrometers, can integrate spectral library information with its search and match algorithms. Metrohm has developed intuitive software for vis–NIR spectroscopic measurements under two dedicated environments.

Spectral Libraries

Bio-Rad’s new offering, together with the company’s spectral libraries, can suggest formulations of mixtures. Fiveash has spectral libraries of controlled substances and also of prescription drugs and excipients. Spectral Sciences’ software also can calculate the spectra of gas mixtures, thereby performing de facto analysis of the mixture. John Wiley provides spectral database software to access 2.2 million MS, NMR, and IR spectra.

Hardware Control

We don’t generally review instrument control software, because such software has traditionally been a part of hardware development. However, this situation is changing, driven by software platform obsolescence and customer expectations for touch screens and cell-phone like features. This area should prove to be an interesting field of development as vendors redefine workflows, data collection, and data analysis through the lens of usability.

BioTools’ software, in conjunction with the company’s protein analyzer, can collect spectra in 1–2 min and measure concentrations as low as 0.25 mg/mL. Harrick Scientific’s software coordinates temperature-controlled sampling accessories with FT-IR data acquisition. Texas Instruments has added new features that build on its existing software; these include slew-scan capability and programmable integration times, as well as other programmable adjustments.

Horiba provides a new patented high dynamic range detection (HDD) system mode, advanced quality control (QC) protocols, and retrospective analysis. Latitude Compliance Services’ training management software allows for all types of training under its jurisdiction.

UV–vis

UV–vis Trends

The lines between different spectral regions is becoming blurred. About 50 years ago, all UV–vis instruments (Table X) were de facto touted as UV–vis-NIR, but the NIR performance was, to put it kindly, generally unsatisfactory by modern standards. The new generations of instruments are becoming competitive with modern NIR-only spectrometers. Technospex is showing a new instrument with coverage of UV, visible, and NIR ranges.

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UV–vis, like Raman and NIR, is seeing smaller sizes—in both instruments (such as those launched by International Light Technologies, SpectroClick, and Industrial Test Systems) and sample sizes (for example, the product launched by Thermo Fisher Scientific). Like the other classes of instruments noted earlier, there is also development around specific analyzers. UV–vis has long been a static field, with minor tweaks around basic instruments; it is good to see the level of innovation and development of increasing power in stand-alone instruments bringing new vitality and purpose to these tools.

UV–vis Products

Mettler-Toledo has a completely new instrument line that is compliant with pharmacopeial regulations and requires only one drop of sample. Spectral Evolution has a portable spectroradiometer for the 280–1900 nm spectral range and has an internal photo-trigger. The company tec5USA has an on-board processor to analyze spectral data in real time. Technospex has a UV–vis-NIR instrument for reflection, transmission, and absorption measurement at the microscale. Thermo Fisher Scientific’s instrument can analyze DNA, RNA, and protein samples with 1–2 µL of sample. The instrument from Carl Zeiss has long-term stability and does not need frequent external calibration; it can also operate in stand-off mode.

Commercial Smart-Phone-Based and Miniaturized Spectrometers

Industrial Test Systems has a photometer system that pairs directly with a smart-phone or tablet via two-way Bluetooth communication. International Light Technologies provides a handheld illuminance spectrometer for the 360–780 nm wavelength range. SpectroClick puts visible reflection and absorption spectrometry in the palm of the user’s hand with a single universal serial bus (USB) cable; SpectroClick also has the only instruments shown at Pittcon designed specifically for marketing to the academic marketplace (also see Perkin-Elmer, however, in the mid-IR section).

The new Avantes spectrometer offers 10x higher speed USB 3.0 communication. B&W Tek provides a portable spectrometer reflectance probe covering UV, visible, and NIR spectral ranges (350–2500 nm). MilliporeSigma uses identification bar codes for method selection and simplified data acquisition. PerkinElmer provides a family of instruments with a variety of spectral bandwidths for materials testing, QC, or research and development (R&D) applications. StellarNet has a spectrometer with a concave holographic grating and no mirrors, thereby reducing stray light and aberrations.

See Table X for details about the companies and products for this section.

X-ray

We might think that all (or almost all) X-ray equipment (Table XI) for chemical analysis is based on X-ray fluorescence (XRF), but that’s not the case. Apco makes a Mössbauer spectrometer, which is specially sensitive to iron (Fe) atoms. This is the basis for a specialized microscope for steel and other iron-containing materials.

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Heuresis makes an XRF spectrometer that is a handheld device using ordinary AA batteries for power—another example of the trend discussed in our introduction. Panalytical produces an energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) device to measure elements ranging from sodium to americium at 2 ppm levels. Rigaku makes a high-performance EDXRF system that uses a 60-kV, 12-W X-ray tube (not portable). Spectro Analytical makes portable and nonportable XRF systems (for bringing to the plant floor) and EDXRF systems (for greater precision and accuracy).

Accessories

Accessories (Table XII) are generally designed to simplify the laboratory workflow around a major instrument. Under this umbrella, we see specialty laboratory furniture (IonBench), reference materials (Inorganic Ventures), sample delivery (Spetec GmbH and Cetac), and sampling devices (Czitech, Harrick, and Glass Expansion) all attacking some workflow pain point. In some cases, companies offer a “solution” that is a combination, sometimes of two major tools (like TGA–IR or rheometry–Raman), but more commonly a combination of a major instrument with a sampling device or relatively minor auxiliary device, like an autosampler on an ICP-MS instrument. As should be expected, different accessory vendors often identify the same market needs, such as with diamond FT-IR ATR devices (at least seven different vendors). In addition, the trend noted earlier regarding low-cost instrumentation includes devices where the accessory becomes an essential part of a targeted solution.

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Sample Preparation

In this vein, Anton Paar offers an improved sample digestion system that prepares multiple samples for analysis simultaneously. Similarly, Claisse provides a device for improved sample preparation that prepares multiple fusion disks for atomic adsoprtion (AA) analysis simultaneously. Distek’s device has 10 stations for simultaneous sample preparation.

Instrument Add-Ons

Biotools has a temperature controller for sample cells, which will result in improved spectral consistency. Stellarnet also provides temperature controllers. Czitek offers an adapter to couple microscopy optics to a FT-IR spectrometer, as well as a video attachment for ATR spectroscopy. Glass Expansion provides several accessories to improve the performance of various atomic spectroscopic techniques. For molecular spectroscopy, Harrick and Hellma-Axiom have improved diamond ATR add-ons. Specac has a sample holder for viscous samples. IonBench has a positioner for putting a high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) column near the inlet of a mass spectrometer. Spetec has a syringe pump to measure reproducible amounts of sample. Teledyne-CETAC also provides a syringe pump.

External Control

MS Noise offers soundproofing for noisy lab equipment. Ocean Optics has an improved substrate for surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). Quantum Composers provides advanced control of lasers for Raman, for example.

Combining Instruments

Headwall Photonics offers a data-acquisition system that fuses data from different technologies. Ondax offers a similar capability in coupling low-frequency Raman with chemical fingerprinting. Xia offers an eight-channel pulse processor for high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy.

Standards

To aid in obtaining accurate analyses, NIST-traceable standard samples are provided by GFS Chemicals. Inorganic Ventures also provides several different sets of certified reference materials (CRMs). Starna Cells provides wavelength standards for IR and UV spectroscopy.

Components

As we noted above, in our taxonomy components (Table XIII) are devices that are used in the construction of an instrument or items that become inherently part of an instrument—if the component is absent, the instrument does not work or becomes severely degraded. As an example, all modern Raman instruments need a laser and an optical filter, among other things. Without the laser, there is no signal and without the filter, the laser illumination will overwhelm the detector. This type of device is different from an accessory that can be used optionally in conjunction with an instrument and is generally external to it; the instrument will work just fine without it, but the accessory extends the instrument’s capabilities (for example, a liquid flow cell for an instrument innately designed to measure solid samples).

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Easily, the most numerous component announcements involve lasers, with at least five vendors announcing new or revised laser offerings this year. These offerings provide new wavelengths, new packaging, and higher powers for many applications. The array of lasers is opening new analytical areas with specificity not seen previously. Most of these lasers are now solid-state lasers (SSLs) in small packages, helping drive the handheld device market, especially for Raman spectroscopy. The grating vendors and optical filter manufacturers are responding with complementary tools (such as Headwall, Ocean Optics, and OptiGrate) to complete the packaging.

As the market continues to drive toward lower costs and smaller footprints, these tools will be the building blocks for the next generation of devices. With their increasing reliability and better performance, the lasers will begin to show up in more laboratory equipment as well.

One very interesting development is a cryogen-free bolometer from QMC Instruments. This component could enable more laboratories to explore the long-wavelength IR (terahertz) region of the spectrum with a high sensitivity detector. Further developments in this space will be worth watching.

Bayspec is offering modular spectrometric “building blocks” for UV, visible, and NIR measurements for OEMs. Texas Instruments has spectrometer modules based on its TI DLP technology. Clippard Instruments has one-piece PTFE valves for sample handling. Tornado Spectral Systems has a virtual slit that increases the spectral throughput of a Raman spectrometer.

Lasers and Sources

Adding to the laser list above, Cobolt provides a single-longitudinal-mode SSL with integrated optical isolator, as well as tunable parametric oscillators for various wavelength ranges. Quantum Composers provides an SSL for various wavelength ranges. RPMC Lasers provides a laser for deep-UV operation as well as for more conventional wavelength ranges. An alternative to lasers is LEDs, which come in various wavelength ranges. Crystal IS offers deep-UV LEDs in various configurations.

Wavelength Selection

Other components for spectrometers include wavelength-separating components, such as Headwall Photonics’ holographic diffraction gratings and Inrad Optics’ X-ray monochromator. Optigrate has a different approach with narrow notch filters to remove the laser line in Raman spectroscopy.

Electronics

Every instrument needs electronics. Microcertec has a way to reduce the space the electronics requires by using 3D packaging for them. Spellman High Voltage Electronics Corp. manufactures restriction of hazardous substances (RoHS)-compliant power supplies. Every instrument also needs a detector. Polymer Char has a mercury-cadmium-telluride (MCT) detector optimized for an instrument determining chain length and branching in polymers. As mentioned above, QMC Instruments has a superconducting bolometer that does not require liquid helium.

 

Howard Mark serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Spectroscopy and is a regular coauthor of the “Chemometrics in Spectroscopy” column. He also runs a consulting service, Mark Electronics, in Suffern, New York. Mike Bradley also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Spectroscopy and is a marketing manager for FT-IR and FT-IR microscopes at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Madison, Wisconsin. Direct correspondence to: [email protected]

 

Correction: This online version of this article corrects an error in Table VI: NIR products that appeared in the print version. In the entry for the QuasIR from Galaxy Scientific, the “Measurement Mode” and "Applications and Unique Features” fields now contain the correct information about this product.

 

 

 

 

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