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Trends in Spectroscopy: A Summary of Significant Advances and Applications

Spectroscopy is the science that examines the emission and absorption of radiation such as light, the wavelength of the radiation, and interactions between particles like electrons, protons, and ions. Spectroscopy plays an important role in quantum electrodynamics, mechanics, and the theory of relativity. This science is a blessing for modern analytical chemistry and science, as it can help many fields.

There are more types of spectrometers, differing in size, use, and versatility. The applications vary as well, from electromagnetic radiation to color measurements. Keep reading to see how different types of spectrometers aid several industries, like food and lighting.

Spectroscopy 

Modern analytical laboratories in industry and research would struggle to function without spectroscopic technologies. Spectroscopic applications are commonly utilized in many sectors of almost all production businesses and nearly every research facility. Quality control, purity testing, structural analysis, reaction process monitoring, materials testing, and much more are among them. Soil samples may be analyzed for toxicological contamination utilizing spectroscopic methods such as mass spectrometry, IR (infrared radiation), NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance), or UV-VIS (ultraviolet-visible) spectroscopy, among others. 

Spectroscopy approaches have the following applications:

  • Detection of contaminant objects and quality control in the food industry
  • Incoming goods and process control in the pharmaceutical industry
  • Identification of substances in toxicology and forensics
  • Structure analysis of chemical compounds.

Spectroscopy methods are utilized in various sectors and application areas to identify chemicals by comparing them to reference spectra. For decades, capturing UV and NIR spectrograms has been a typical procedure in forensic investigations.

Spectrometers for the power industry

The measurement needs in the solar industry vary, ranging from direct solar measurements to the manufacturing of photo-voltaic panels. Thanks to technological advances, the demands of the power industry are covered by specially designed spectrometers. Irradiance, fluorescence and luminescence are applications that spectrometry can improve. Some products have been equipped with high-performance detectors with back-thinned technology thermoelectrically cooled.

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The back-thinned detectors respond effectively to ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared. Such spectrometers are used in university research and Government labs and can be integrated into existing systems to measure solar radiation to analyze climate change. They can also help industrial clients monitor heliostats and quantify solar concentrations or use the products as an alternative technology to a spectro-heliometer.

Food spectroscopy

No matter how new it may sound, food spectroscopy is not a new technology; it’s only that it’s not so talked about. Old desktop spectrometers could cost thousands, yet, thanks to technological advances, handheld, portable spectrometers cost a few bucks. Many things that the human senses cannot measure can be measured using spectroscopy. 

The food and agriculture industries take advantage of technological advances and employ spectroscopy in the following areas:

  • Pesticide detection. Employees look for leftover insecticides for various reasons, like food analysis for human consumption or determining pesticide impacts on insect populations.
  • Food authentication. Many commercially sold foods can be fraudulently produced, and fish, meat, cereals, spices, and other items fall under this category. Each meal has its own spectral fingerprint, and food authenticators can use this to establish whether or not what they scan is genuine.
  • Real-time field analysis. Spectroscopy may be used to analyze crops in the field in various ways. Understanding the nutritional composition of a certain crop is one such use.
  • Industrial sorting. Optical sensors and machine learning have accelerated food quality sorting, as the human eye might be too subjective for this task. 
  • Horticulture lighting monitoring. The preservation of LED standards in greenhouses is critical to crop development. Employees measure and adjust lights to guarantee optimal growth conditions.
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Pharmaceutical spectrometry

Spectroscopic technologies are used in many businesses to assess the quality and composition of the end product and, occasionally, one or more intermediaries, too. The pharmaceutical business is subject to strict controls. Therefore, analytical process control is a must, or an essential spectroscopic application that aids product concentration monitoring. This improves understanding of the industrial process and improves a manufacturing setup in terms of durability and efficiency, ensuring consistently excellent product quality.

When a good arrives, a spectrometer checks the purity and quality of the raw materials and excipients used to produce the pharmaceutical end product. Near-infrared spectroscopy, or NIR spectroscopy, is used extensively for such applications as an addition to other spectroscopic methods because it’s non-destructive and fast, provides results online/inline in real-time, requires no sample preparation, and can be automated.

Spectrometers to analyze the structure of chemical compounds

There are many and various uses of spectroscopic techniques. For example, almost no analytical approach is as diverse in industrial and research facilities. However, the typical domain for spectroscopic applications is still chemical compound structure investigation. Many investigations combine mass spectrometry, IR and NMR spectroscopy, and other spectroscopic techniques for different analyses. This way, laboratories are provided with quick and accurate information about the composition of certain substances.

Often, the structure of a substance requires a certain level of investigation, and IR can give valuable supplementary information thanks to its rapid- and easy-to-conduct features and decent prices.

Spectroscopy in toxicology and forensics

Spectroscopy methods are utilized in various application areas and sectors to identify chemicals through comparison to the reference spectrum. Capturing NIR and UV spectrograms has been a typical procedure in forensic investigations for many decades. Materials like paint traces and fibers discovered at the crime scene may be studied quickly and without destroying the evidence.

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Doping drugs and toxins can also be identified utilizing spectroscopy methods. Organic toxins and heavy metals can be detected with precision, even in small amounts, and not just in forensics.

Soil samples may be swiftly analyzed for toxicological contamination utilizing spectroscopic methods such as NMR, UV-VIS, or IR spectroscopy, or mass spectrometry, among other methods.

Spectroscopy is here to help humanity evolve and technology develop. 

A spectroscopic use that may become increasingly relevant in the future is plastic sorting in recycling. Otherwise, this technology is already used in physical and analytical chemistry to measure, determine, and detect a sample’s molecular and structural composition. Each atom or molecule will reflect or emit electromagnetic radiation in its own distinct manner, so stay tuned to see how technological advances keep benefiting industries all over the world.