2015 Review of Spectroscopic Instrumentation

May 1, 2015


Volume 30, Issue 5

Every year, we prepare this review of new spectroscopy products to make it easy for you to stay up to date on the latest instrumentation, accessories, components, and software. Traditionally, we have referred to this article as the "Pittcon" review.

Our annual review of products introduced at Pittcon and throughout the past year

Every year, we prepare this review of new spectroscopy products to make it easy for you to stay up to date on the latest instrumentation, accessories, components, and software. Traditionally, we have referred to this article as the "Pittcon" review. The more general name we are using this year reflects the fact that our coverage is not limited to products introduced at this annual conference; we also include products introduced over the past year since our last review, and the information presented here is gathered from Pittcon exhibits as well as through a survey.

Nevertheless, the majority of the products mentioned here were presented at Pittcon 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana, so it is worth continuing our practice of looking at how many people attended Pittcon this year, as well as how many companies exhibited there. According to data available on the Pittcon website, final attendance this year was 14,272 (down from 16,255 the year before), and 924 companies were present (down from 946), 129 of which were exhibiting there for the first time (up from 120). Of course, not all of those companies offer spectroscopy products, and we certainly were not able to obtain information from all of them - either through visiting booths at Pittcon or through our survey.

As usual, the review is organized according to the wavelength region and type of spectroscopy involved. The categories we used in this review to classify the instruments (in alphabetical order) are

Atomic spectroscopy
Mass spectrometry
X-ray (which includes all shorter-wavelength methods, if present).

Imaging is not a separate section in the review; imaging devices are reported in the corresponding technology section. This year's review does not include sections for fluorescence or terahertz spectroscopy, because there were too few entries to warrant separate categories for them. Those few fluorescence instruments can be found under UV–vis, and the terahertz instruments can be found under components. This year we continue our practice of providing additional details about all the products in a series of appendixes, available at www.spectroscopyonline.com/2015-review.

A novel aspect of this year's review is the presence of more than one author. In assessing last year's review, we realized that it is simply not possible for one person to know enough about all the different technologies presented at Pittcon and do a proper job of describing them. For each product category, one of us dealt with the "forest," comparing the state and the evolution of the technology and the various instruments, while the other dealt with the "trees" of the details of each instrument.

Table I: Index of companies mentioned in this article

One overarching trend seemed apparent: the development of special-purpose "analyzers" (as opposed to the use of general-purpose spectrometers for a particular analysis). To be sure, such devices have existed for a long time; for example the origins of the pulse oximeter (used to measure blood oxygenation) can be traced back as far as 1935, while the modern form of this device was developed in 1972 and commercialized in 1981. Similarly, a spectroscopic bodyfat meter was developed in the 1980s. Both of these devices are notable in that they use dedicated hardware and software, and terms such as "spectrum," "spectroscopic," or any similar terms are missing from their description - only the final measurement is described. Dedicated devices such as the ones mentioned above started to appear at this year's Pittcon, whereas they were previously announced in conferences oriented toward the medical community. Furthermore, they are starting to be developed by companies previously known for their general-purpose instruments. We'll have to keep an eye on this in the future.

Table I: Index of companies mentioned in this article (continued)

We are pleased to note that this year, two of the winners of the Pittcon Editors' Awards were spectroscopically oriented: Gold went to Shimadzu's Nexera UC, a hyphenated product for supercritical fluid extraction cleanup–supercritical fluid chromatography–mass spectrometry (SFE–SFC–MS). Silver went to Waters's Full Spectrum Molecular Imaging system.



Many of the improvements to existing instruments often have to do with sample handling. Accessory manufacturers have approached problems of extreme environments, such as in on-line and at-line applications, with new solutions. Guided Wave announced new accessories for use in high-pressure, flowing pipelines, and chemically aggressive environments. Automation continues to grow, with companies like Teledyne Cetac and Questron presenting new sample introduction methods for spectrometers showing decreased manual needs. Verder has addressed special requirements, such as the generation of ultrafine powders, and Milestone is offering treatments in specially designed microwave ovens. Savillex has new injectors for inductively coupled plasma (ICP) systems and laser ablation tools for MS.

On a more mundane, but critical level, suppliers are showing a good recognition of the importance of the regulatory landscape. Spex CertiPrep, Starna Cells, and Inorganic Ventures are providing new traceable standards and new storage methods that enable better expiration times to provide options for busy analytical laboratories. Inorganic Ventures has a new line of standards that is useful for calibrating all types of instruments. Spex CertiPrep now offers single-element standards for ICP analysis, accredited by A2LA under ISO 17025 and ISO Guide 34. In addition, Ocean Optics announced a new sampler as well as surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) substrates. Finally, Teledyne-Cetac has two new sample preparation systems.

Table II: Accessories

We also saw new products this year from other accessory manufacturers. CEM has a microwave digestion system operating at pressures and temperatures as high as 700 psi and 300 °C, respectively. Glass Expansion provides a temperature-controlled spray chamber for ICP-optical emission spectroscopy (OES) and ICP-MS with a temperature range of –25 °C to +60 °C. Jasco makes a new attenuated total reflectance (ATR) accessory that is designed for the analysis of liquids, solids, and powders. Magritek is providing new hardware and software for monitoring and control of continuous reactions. Ocean Optics provides SERS substrates in addition to its instrument lines and other products. PerkinElmer is manufacturing microscopes for use with spectrometers. Photonis has an Ion Beam Profiler. Quantum Northwest provides a six-position, linear cuvette changer with environmental control. Spectral Systems, LLC, makes flow cells designed for continuous flow IR transmission. StellarNet provides a fluorescence spectrometer-to-microscope adapter, for those scientists who already have a microscope. Thermo Fisher Scientific has a monolithic diamond ATR accessory.

Table II: Accessories (continued)

See Table II and the on-line information for more details about these products.

Table II: Accessories (continued)


Atomic Spectroscopy

The growth of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is a welcome trend in the atomic spectroscopy field. The ability of lasers to generate the analyte emission simplifies sample preparation in many cases, even while decreasing the total sample size needed for the analysis. The limits on accuracy and detection currently mean that ICP, graphite furnace, and atomic absorption (AA) remain stalwarts in the field - and continued development of these is visible in several new products - but LIBS is proving capable in handheld instruments and laboratory tools, so we expect further growth of this technique. B&W Tek is providing two LIBS instruments. One is a lightweight, handheld, and battery-operated unit for quick results, the other a larger and more robust unit. The larger one is also portable, in that at 12 lb you don't need a truck to move it around (our personal definition of "portable"), but it's not what anyone would consider "handheld." SciAps, Inc., is also providing a LIBS instrument; at 4 lb it is the world's smallest handheld LIBS unit. Stellarnet offers a LIBS unit that can be preconfigured for "open and measure" operation. (See also Edinburgh Instruments in the Raman section of this review.)

In other atomic technologies, Horiba has a new spectrofluorometer with high-end capabilities, as one would expect from Horiba. Some of the advanced features available are a dual-grating turret and ultrashort pulses for fluorescence lifetime measurement. Ocean Optics has new versions of what might be considered "legacy" technologies: a flame spectrometer and a spark microspectrometer. Both of these technologies hark back to the early days of spectroscopy, but were brought up to date with modern electronics. PerkinElmer also has a new flame atomic absorption (FAA) spectrometer, brought up to date with the latest in a touch-screen user interface. Shimadzu has an instrument that can simultaneously perform ICP and atomic emission spectroscopy (AES), as well as an ultrafast fluorescence spectrofluorophotometer. SPECTRO Analytical Instruments presents a high-resolution ICP-OES spectrometer that can quickly change from axial to radial observation.

See Table III and the on-line information for more details about these products.

Table III: Atomic spectroscopy products


As part of the trend toward special-purpose analyzers, we note that various component suppliers are providing applications-specific building blocks. For example, companies such as Attodyne, RPMC, and Cobolt are showing a wide array of lasers. Similarly, Andor and Teledyne Judson are making detectors available as a prominent part of their product offerings and McPherson provides spectrometer components. Vendors can compile these blocks into their interpretation of the market needs, producing devices specific for oil analysis and pesticides. Much of the innovation in instrument design involves incorporating these tools, such as with electron-multiplying charge-coupled devices (EMCCDs) and specific lasers being built into Raman spectrometers by a variety of vendors. Although some special-purpose analyzers are being developed through specialty instrumentation companies (such as Real-Time Analyzers), others are being developed by the component manufacturers (Ocean Optics) or larger, general-purpose manufacturers.

We also saw a variety of other offerings from component suppliers. Avantes is manufacturing a compact stabilized halogen light source for visible to near-infrared applications; Bayspec supplies lasers of several different wavelengths; Cobolt has lasers of various wavelengths that offer direct intensity modulation capability; JMScience lamps are manufactured using a new manufacturing process that results in lower prices and extended lifetimes; Newport supplies a modular NIR, mid-IR, terahertz spectrometer engine; RPMC Lasers is promoting deep-UV lasers; and VUV Analytics has a vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) absorption spectroscopy detector.

Table IV: Components

See Table IV and the on-line information for more details about these products.

Table IV: Components (continued)

Mass Spectrometry

Seven manufacturers presented new MS products this year at Pittcon. (Although this article includes products launched over the past year, we have not attempted to cover products introduced at ASMS, which has become the primary venue for launching MS instruments.) The instrument offered by 1st Detect can be preprogrammed to monitor specific chemicals and their abundances in real time. Bayspec's instrument has the ability for one person to carry its portable unit and execute in situ. Excellims Corporation's system offers high-resolution ion mobility for size and structure separation before MS analysis. Hiden Analytical has the Compact SIMS tool, which is designed for characterization of layer structures, surface contamination, and impurities. IONICON Analytik has an extremely sensitive quadrupole ion guide (Qi). Shimadzu's instrument can combine on-line SFE, SFC, and MS in a single flow path. Waters combines stepwave ion optics and its XS collision cell for high sensitivity and mass resolution at LC-compatible speeds.

See Table V and the on-line information for more details about these products.

Table V: Mass spectrometry products



While most IR vendors, such as Bruker, Jasco, Thermo Fisher, and PerkinElmer, displayed well developed and mature tools at Pittcon this year, some cutting-edge devices were shown as well. Block Engineering showed a quantum-cascade-laser–based gas detection system, both for use as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) module, and as a complete instrument for an open-path chemical detection system. Bruker showed a stand-alone FT-IR microscope with a motorized ATR crystal. Prism Analytical Technologies has a combined gas chromatography (GC)–FT-IR unit.

See Table VI and the on-line information for more details about these products.

Table VI: Mid-IR products


Application specificity in NIR historically has been achieved via the calibration model, in contrast with most other technologies that use custom or dedicated hardware. NIR vendors are now also coming to the use of dedicated hardware as well as software and calibrations. For example, ABB is providing a precalibrated unit for crystallinity in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. Art Photonics has an instrument designed to measure and control moisture in media. Bruker has a unit for precise measuring of weight, thickness, diameter, and hardness of tablets that is fully compliant with current United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and European Pharmacopoeia (EP) requirements. Real-Time Analyzers is showing a benchtop fuel analyzer based on NIR (as opposed to a previous version based on Raman spectroscopy) that provides the ability to rapidly determine fuel quality of multiple fuel types.

Other vendors, meanwhile, are offering new instruments with broader applicability. B&W Tek has a complete reflection spectrophotometer system for mobile applications. Guided Wave has a dual-beam, full-spectrum, post-dispersive NIR process analyzer-spectrometer platform. JDSU has an ultracompact wireless NIR spectrometer for on-line process monitoring applications. PANalytical (previously ASD) has a truly portable full-range, handheld, contact spectrometer. StellarNet has a system for material identification and composition analysis, which can also be preconfigured for "open and measure" application.

See Table VII and the on-line information for more details about these products.

Table VII: NIR products


Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy has not been prominent at Pittcon for several years. Indeed, in some years, general scouting of the exhibit floor did not reveal any manufacturers of NMR instruments. However, recent advances in magnet technology have enabled manufacturers to replace the huge electromagnets of yesteryear with (relatively) small, permanent magnets with suitable characteristics (uniformity) to allow the NMR measurement to be (relatively) easily moved from one site to another, thereby making it "portable" (though this does not quite meet the definition of "portable" as defined above as "not needing a truck").

NMR is going through some major changes. With the withdrawal of a major player in the high-field magnet sector (Agilent), most of the development and change is coming in the small, benchtop, or fixed-magnet arena, almost a diametric shift back to the roots of NMR. A number of vendors, such as Thermo Fisher, Magritek, and Anasazi, provide small NMR units. A common theme this year is "cryogen free," while competition is developing around carbon-13 capabilities and reaction monitoring. Unfortunately, only two vendors responded to our request for detailed information about their units for this review, so we cannot present examples of all the features we discuss. Cosa Xentaur Corporation provides cryogen-free compact, mobile, permanent magnet high resolution NMR spectroscopy. Thermo Fisher Scientific has a new reaction monitoring accessory for its picoSpin high-resolution benchtop spectrometers that adds the dimension of time to benchtop NMR.

See Table VIII and the on-line information for more details about these products.

Table VIII: NMR products



Developments in Raman spectroscopy were prevalent at this year's Pittcon. Raman vendors showed an array of new tools covering different aspects of the applications space. Several companies provide instruments that adapt to existing microscopes.

Bayspec has the world's first dual-band portable Raman instrument, as well as a high-resolution dispersive 1064-nm Raman spectrometer. Bruker uses sequentially shifted excitation to minimize fluorescence interference. B&W Tek has a portable Raman spectrometer with a high quantum efficiency cooled (–25 °C) CCD array detector. Edinburgh Instruments offers its Nanosecond Transient Absorption spectrometer, which features several alternate measurement modes including LIBS. Jasco has a Raman instrument for temperature- or atmosphere-controlled measurements. Metrohm provides the only handheld Raman instrument in the market with a laser class I safety feature. Ondax uses a 976-nm source for reduced autofluorescence. Rigaku eliminates fluorescence interference by using 1064-nm excitation. TechnoSpex Pte. Ltd. integrates Raman spectroscopy into existing upright microscope functions. Thermo has the only handheld combined Raman and mid-IR analyzer. Tornado Spectral Systems has an on-line and at-line process Raman analyzer. Witec provides three-dimensional (3D) confocal Raman imaging.

See Table IX and the on-line information for more details about these products.

Table IX: Raman products


This year's review includes software products from seven companies. ACD Labs provides a single interface for delivery of multitechnique analytical results, with automatic capture of raw data. Autoscribe Informatics, Inc., has a workflow generator and recorder. CAMO, Inc., provides a software package for modeling and monitoring of batch processes or systems with time dependency. CEM has software that allows wireless real-time monitoring and instrument control from outside the laboratory. Fiveash Data Management (FDM) can provide a Raman library of more than 200 multicomponent sets of ATR spectra of drugs (including drugs of abuse) in one spectral library as well as more than 845,000 two-component ATR spectra. Horiba has a spectroscopy suite for Horiba Raman microscopes that has several add ons available. Magritek also has new software for its Spinsolve NMR spectrometer.

See Table X and the on-line information for more details about these products.

Table X: Software products



UV–visible spectroscopy is one of the most mature of the common spectroscopic technologies. Nevertheless, 17 manufacturers have new instruments in this category.

B&W Tek is showing a UV–vis spectrometer using a low stray light Czerny-Turner spectrograph, with a cooled (–25 °C), high quantum efficiency, back-thinned (BT) CCD detector and several other features. CEM's newly developed Flash Photometer allows analysis of Na, K, and Ca, in all types of food products in less than 10 min. GratingWorks demonstrates a dual beam version of the previous Concavus spectrometer; several specifications are shown. Hanby Petroanalysis's new Hydrocarbon ID is a field device that uses a chemical reaction and a spectrometer to get a spectral curve or fingerprint of the hydrocarbon; this system combines the concept of a dedicated analyzer (a trend discussed above) with the concept of an automated analyzer. Headwall Photonics, Inc., has a completely integrated VNIR (400–1000 nm) hyperspectral sensor. Industrial Test Systems had the first photometer in the water quality testing market to provide two-way wireless connection. Jasco showed its new V-780 UV–vis–NIR instrument with a single monochromator, dual-grating, dual-detector design, and an InGaAs NIR detector, which is part of a five-instrument set of distinct models. J&M Analytik showed fast scanning by coupling to a camera. McPherson showed deep UV spectrophotometry, as well as VUV excitation and broadband emission measurement capability. Ocean Optics, instead of an instrument, showed its spectral sensing platform - essentially a developer's kit containing simple tools for integrating spectroscopy into your system. PerkinElmer has a family of benchtop-friendly UV–vis instruments offering a variety of spectral bandwidths with varying other properties. Quantum Northwest also has what amounts to a developer's kit that provides all of the hardware and software needed to make high-quality pulsed-laser photoacoustics measurements, except for the laser. Shimadzu's instrument features a simultaneous ICP and atomic emission spectrometer. Spectral Evolution has a portable lightweight (7 lb) spectroradiometer (350–2500 nm) with no moving optics, as well as others. Spectrum Scientific Inc., has an instrument with an aberration-corrected, concave, holographic UV-blazed diffraction grating and a set of impressive specifications. StellarNet showed the most well-rounded spectrometer choice in StellarNet's line of spectrometers. Tec5USA showed an integrated fiber-optic multiplexer with the spectrometer module, light sources, and all the necessary electronics.

In addition, the new LIBS instruments discussed in the atomic spectroscopy section above also could be included in the UV–vis section.

Table XI: UV–vis products

See Table XI and the on-line information for more details about these products.

Table XI: UV–vis products (continued)


Unfortunately, neither of us is an expert in X-ray technology or its applications. Further, there are only four manufacturers that contributed to our review, so we have little basis for comparisons or detecting trends. All we can realistically do is to present the information we obtained and allow those of our readers who have the necessary expertise to evaluate the instruments. They are all X-ray fluorescence spectrometers, with the given characteristics.

Applied Rigaku provides nondestructive analysis of elements 11Na to 92U, with an ability to analyze solids, liquids, alloys, powders, and thin films. Edax specializes in nondestructive coating thickness measurement technology. PANalytical combines up to three complementary technologies: wavelength dispersive (WD), energy dispersive (ED), and cores integrated by SumXcore technology. SPECTRO Analytical Instruments has a series of handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometers from an entry-level model to one using the largest silicon drift detector (SDD) available for handheld XRF.

See Table XII and the on-line information for more details about these products.

Table XII: X-ray products

On-Line Appendixes

Additional product details appear on-line in the appendixes, at www.spectroscopyonline.com/2015-review

Appendix I: Accessories
Appendix II: Atomic spectroscopy
Appendix III: Components
Appendix IV: Mass spectrometry
Appendix V: Mid-IR
Appendix VI: NIR
Appendix VII: NMR
Appendix VIII: Raman
Appendix IX: Software
Appendix X: UV–vis
Appendix XI: X-ray

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. He can be reached at hlmark@nearinfrared.com. 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.