A Brief Survey of Handheld and Portable Instruments Used in Spectroscopy

November 1, 2020
Jerome Workman Jr.
Jerome Workman Jr.

Jerome Workman Jr. serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Spectroscopy and is currently with Unity Scientific LLC. He is also an adjunct professor at Liberty University and U.S. National University. He can be reached at jworkman04@gsb.columbia.edu.

Special Issues, Special Issues-11-01-2020, Volume s6, Issue 35
Page Number: 6–13

This article provides a convenient summary of portable and handheld spectroscopy techniques, outlining the most prominent types of compact instruments for both atomic and molecular spectroscopy.

This article provides a set of tables summarizing the most prominent handheld and portable instruments widely applied for field and outside the laboratory analysis. Techniques covered in this article include X-ray fluorescence (XRF), laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), infrared (IR) spectroscopy, near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, ultraviolet, and visible spectroscopy.

The article summarizes this information by providing six tables describing the available handheld and portable instrumentation for atomic spectroscopy techniques, including X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), as well as molecular spectroscopy techniques including ultraviolet (UV), visible (vis), infrared (IR), near-infrared (NIR), and Raman spectroscopy. Each table includes a generalized description of the technique, the technical design and specifications features, a summary of typical dimensions for the smaller footprint instruments, and a list of applications where the various instruments are primarily used. The specific applications surveyed include agriculture, archaeometry, art, biomedical, chemicals, environmental, food, forensics, materials, pharmaceuticals, and polymers, which makes sense because these are the main application areas that lend themselves to in situ analysis in either the field or a manufacturing plant. For each category, references are listed in the reference section. General references include some original inventions as well as general references for each specific technology or spectroscopic technique.

Recent History of Handheld and Portable Instruments

Excellent resources are available on the various topics described in this article, including a recent review on the subject of portable spectroscopy (P1), and a set of volumes describing the detailed theory, instrument design, methods, and applications of molecular spectroscopic techniques (P2).

Introduction to the Tables

The tables in this article describe the major attributes for portable atomic spectroscopy methods (Tables I and II) and for the predominant portable molecular spectroscopy methods (Tables III–VII).


Portable Spectroscopy

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Atomic Spectroscopy


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Molecular Spectroscopy


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Jerome Workman, Jr. serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Spectroscopy and is the Senior Technical Editor for LCGC and Spectroscopy. He is also a Certified Core Adjunct Professor at U.S. National University in La Jolla, California. He was formerly the Executive Vice President of Research and Engineering for Unity Scientific and Process Sensors Corporation.

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