Wavelength Tech Forum: FT-IR/NIR

December 15, 2009

Always one of the most popular topics in the pages of Spectroscopy, the December roundtable topic of FT-IR/NIR explores the rapid pace of new developments in this critical research area. Joining us for this discussion are Simon Nunn, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Jenni Briggs, PIKE Technologies

Always one of the most popular topics in the pages of Spectroscopy, the December roundtable topic of FT-IR/NIR explores the rapid pace of new developments in this critical research area.

Joining us for this discussion are Simon Nunn, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Jenni Briggs, PIKE Technologies

What do you think is the most important application of FT-IR in the field of spectroscopy today?

Nunn: The confirmation of product quality and identification of particulate contaminants are key application areas for FT-IR today. Heightened concerns relative to consumer safety continue to drive demand for fast, easy-to-use instrumentation. Recent examples of such safety issues include the contamination of food, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and phthalates in toys.

Briggs: It is difficult to pinpoint only one important application. Among the top applications, however, there are sample identification in QA/QC, contamination identification, and material integrity to determine, for example, sample oxidation and degradation.

Do you see any other techniques supplanting FT-IR/NIR in pharmaceutical QA/QC in the near future?

Nunn: FT-IR and NIR offer outstanding capabilities as QA/QC techniques; providing information-rich data more quickly than other techniques. Raman is emerging as a technique, which can complement, as opposed to supplant, FT-IR and NIR. The complementary nature of Raman data makes it an ideal partner for the other vibrational techniques. Recent advances in Raman instrumentation have made the technique more robust and hence accessible to the QA/QC market.

Briggs: Raman is also being applied in QA/QC. These technologies, FT-IR/NIR and Raman, are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They are often complementary.

What is the most innovative application of FT-IR or NIR that you have seen in recent years? (i.e., an application you didn’t see coming)

Nunn: The progression of infrared chemical imaging from esoteric research technique to a practical problem solving tool has been very exciting. The speed and ease with which richly-detailed images can be obtained and analyzed is quite incredible. As scientists develop ever more complex structures on the micro-scale, from electronic displays to drug-delivery systems, the importance of imaging technology will continue to grow.

Briggs: The application of using FT-IR and automated sampling accessories in solar research is gaining momentum, and I believe will continue to grow.

What do you see as the next-step in FT-IR and/or NIR technology and instrumentation?

Nunn:The ability to obtain actionable information quickly and reliably has become a more important attribute of an instrument than its numerical specifications. This trend will continue; driving to smaller, more robust spectrometers powered by intelligent software that takes the operator straight to an answer without the need for subjective spectral interpretation.

Briggs:The advancement of accessories will continue to drive applications, and to provide the means to make measurements quick, convenient, and meaningful.

Has portable FT-IR/NIR instrumentation advanced to the point where it is comparable to benchtop instrumentation, or is there still work to do in this area?

Nunn:The performance of portable instrumentation is adequate for the identification of bulk materials. Benchtop instruments offer greater sensitivity and flexibility. In QA/QC, the sensitivity enables the determination of subtle differences between similar materials. In development laboratories, the flexibility allows benchtops to be applied to a diverse set of materials characterization challenges. Both types of instruments are optimized for their intended environment and use. If you need to take the spectrometer to the sample, a portable device is the way to go. If you’ve got a lab, you’ll be better served with a benchtop.

Briggs:I would classify FT-IR/NIR instrumentation into 3 categories: portable, small footprint, and benchtop instruments. Benchtop instruments continue to provide maximum flexibility in sampling techniques, which is often needed in a dynamic laboratory setting.

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