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Portable spectrometers: performance on the move

6th May 2014

Posted By Paul Boughton


The Delta Ray portable isotope ratio infrared spectrometer is a new category of analyser for the continuous measurement of isotope ratio values from carbon dioxide in ambient air

Sean Ottewell reports on the power, performance and flexibility of portable spectrometers offer many benefits.

Agilent Technologies has introduced a next-generation mobile spectroscopy product that is designed for on-site testing in a broad range of applications, including advanced materials, art, historical objects, geology, agriculture, composites, coatings and polymers.

The lightweight, ergonomic 4300 handheld Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer enables the direct identification and assessment of high-value materials without sample extraction, making handheld FTIR a true non-destructive testing solution.

Thirty-five per cent lighter than its predecessor, the 4300 FTIR offers the performance, mobility, flexibility and user comfort that Agilent says has never before been attained in a handheld FTIR device.

"We believe this handheld FTIR is a game-changer for the mobile FTIR field," said Phil Binns, Agilent's vice president and managing director of spectroscopy. "Not only is it portable and compact, but its advanced ergonomics make the system comfortable to use for long periods of time, leading to better-quality data. Users can now get rapid, field-based analyses without any sample preparation, reducing the time to actionable results."

Two versions of the new FTIR are available: one equipped with a deuterated triglycine sulphate (DTGS) infrared detector that covers a wide range of materials analysis applications; and a high-performance version, equipped with a thermoelectrically cooled mercury cadmium telluride (MCT) detector. The latter system provides improved sensitivity and measurement speed and is ideal for measuring numerous locations over a surface or in a field.

4300 handheld FTIR is available with five interchangeable sample interfaces

The 4300 handheld FTIR is available with five interchangeable sample interfaces for handling the broadest range of applications. Each interface is equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) sensors, enabling full integration with Agilent's method-driven Microlab mobile software. These features, combined with simple touch-screen operation, enable users to quickly access the power of the 4300 with minimal training.

The new FTIR option joins two existing portable spectrometer series offered by the company. The first, the 4500 series, supports efforts associated with at site analysis of incoming materials and outgoing finished products in the chemical, food and polymer industries. They are also ideal for proactive maintenance programmes of high value equipment and machinery in construction and power production industries.

Second is the 4100 ExoScan, a one module, 6.5 lb system that is equally at home in the lab or at site. “The system is as versatile as it is rugged and features a choice of interchangeable sampling interfaces that make the ExoScan a highly useful hand-held mid-IR spectrometer. You can choose diffuse, grazing angle, specular reflection or spherical ATR sampling interfaces, all of which can be changed in seconds with no realignment necessary,” notes the company.

Showcased by Thermo Fisher Scientific at Analytica 2014 in April, the Delta Ray portable isotope ratio infrared spectrometer is a new category of analyser for the continuous measurement of isotope ratio values from carbon dioxide in ambient air (Fig. 1).

The ability to transport the system into the field can enable scientists to continuously collect data, 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Scientists can measure short duration phenomena that may have previously been missed due to the low-frequency sample acquisition. By comparison, a lab transporting samples from the field might only be able to collect one or two samples per week. In addition to more data, the field-deployable system can reduce or eliminate costs for vials, flasks and transportation.

“Isotope ratio infrared spectroscopy brings a paradigm shift to isotope ratio analysis,” said HJ Jost, product manager for the Delta Ray system at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “The potential to expand our current isotope analysis portfolio into field deployable systems, and the excitement of customers once they see the power of continuous measurement at the source, drove our desire to make this technology broadly available.”

“A step forward in the surveillance of volcanoes is now possible,” said Andrea Rizzo, researcher studying Mount Etna for Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, (INGV), Sezione di Palermo, Italy. “Laser spectroscopy for stable isotope analysis in the field opens new and exciting perspectives for the scientific community, such as the opportunity to perform real-time measurements of elemental and isotope composition of carbon dioxide in volcanic gases.”

INGV-Palermo performs geochemical monitoring of Mount Etna to evaluate volcanic activity with the goal of predicting eruptions.

The organisation evaluated a prototype Delta Ray system in July and again in September 2013 at Mount Etna, from sea level to just under 9900 feet up the mountain. Carbon isotope data was captured from the atmosphere, fumaroles and crater plume. The instrument stood up to the rigors of this harsh environment, and INGV-Palermo research group is now planning a long-term study in which the instrument will operate unattended on Mount Etna for a number of months.

The Delta Ray analyser uses laser-based mid-infrared spectroscopy to simultaneously measure C13 isotope and O18 isotope with a precision of better than 0.1 parts per thousand, in minutes. The mid-infrared range produces absorption signals about 8000 times stronger than the near-infrared for superior performance and reduced need to clean the mirrors.

Compact spectrometer for FTIR

Bruker has launched a new compact research grade FTIR spectrometer, the TENSOR II, which replaces the existing TENSOR 27/37 model.

The company says that the TENSOR II is the first R&D FTIR using a diode laser with a much longer hold time than HeNe-lasers included in conventional R&D FTIR instrumentation. The IR-source in the TENSOR II is electronically stabilised to accomplish much longer exposure times than before.

Another innovation is the new electronic platform with expanded functionality which provides a further increase in stability for the TENSOR II against mechanical disturbances and vibrations. The performance of the TENSOR II is continuously controlled: this is not limited to a permanent check of the involved components, but also includes periodically performed test measurements to verify the specification of the system.

For regulated pharmaceutical laboratories the new spectrometer is prepared with fully-automated test routines for validation regarding operational qualification (OQ) and performance validation (PQ). Its software OPUS is compliant with 21 CFR p11, and validation according to the US, European and Japanese Pharmacopeia using integrated NIST traceable standards is available for the instrument.

The main industrial application of the TENSOR II is material verification and quality control – particularly for advanced R&D applications.

Many special sampling accessories can be applied with the TENSOR II and the system can further extended by the FTIR microscope series HYPERION, the thermo gravimetric modules A588, the gas chromatograph series SCION-GC, or the micro plate reader HTS-XT.





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