Field-Based IR Instruments

September 1, 2015

Letter to the editor regarding 30 Years of Spectroscopy, “Analysis of the State of the Art: IR Spectroscopy,” Volume 30, Number 6, June 2015

To the Editor:

Having been intensely involved in development and applications of Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy portable and handheld systems, we read the comments in the 
Spectroscopy article “Analysis of the State of Art: IR Spectroscopy” that was published in the June 2015 issue (1) with great interest. Handheld instrumentation is a unique field; although work in the area has been aided by fundamental research, the majority of advancements have been developed by instrumentation companies to meet existing market needs. We would like to offer some observations regarding the comments made in the article.

We disagree with the comment, “such a setup could overcome a shortcoming of portable instruments-their lack of quantitative analysis software.” We have developed and marketed portable and handheld FT-IR systems for years that successfully identify, classify, and quantify a broad range of materials. For example, our portable systems are routinely used to quantitate phthalates in plastics, oil in water, and various components in oil and diesel fuels. Furthermore, our handheld products are used to quantify surface contamination, thermal degradation of composites, and weathering effects on various coatings.

When we design these instruments, we take into account at least two different types of users-those that develop methods and those that use the finished, often dedicated, method. For the latter group, the software and user interface must be intuitive and push-button. For the former, the software must be mathematically rich and flexible.

For classification and more advanced quantitative analysis, our approach is to enable method developers to use commercially available, familiar, and widely used mathematic and chemometric software containing algorithms for partial least squares, principle component analysis, discriminant analysis, and then seamlessly embed the finished method in the portable FT-IR system. This approach affords simplified method execution for the intended end-user.

Using this approach, we contend that portable mid FT-IR spectrometers are currently far more capable of true classification and quantitative methods than suggested in the Spectroscopy 
review article. Indeed, a significant number of instruments that we have provided are exactly for this purpose.

We do agree that the future for portable and handheld FT-IR is very bright, as shown by the number of applications with which we have been involved and are continually introduced to daily. These applications range from simple identification to more advanced classification and quantitative analysis.

Alan Rein, Mobile and Handheld FTIR Business Development Manager, Agilent TechnologiesJohn Seelenbinder, Mobile and Handheld FTIR Market Manager, Agilent TechnologiesThe Editor RepliesWe appreciate your sharing your perspective and insights into the current state of the art of mobile IR spectroscopy instrumentation. 

We should note that our editing caused the sentence you mention to cast a broader net than originally intended. The original comment that was quoted in the article referred to the lack of quantitative analysis software as a shortcoming of “many” handheld instruments, but unfortunately the word “many” was edited out of the final version.

Laura Bush, Editorial Director


(1) S. Brown, Spectroscopy30(6), 50-55 (2015). 

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