Innovations in spectroscopy are allowing some of the most crucial discoveries in science.
Instrument vendors are helping make them possible with advances in theory and design.
Earlier this year, physicists working at CERN, the European Organi- zation for Nuclear Research, determined the ionization potential for astatine, a naturally occurring element so rare that, until now, its ionization potential couldn’t be determined. All told, less than
a tenth of a gram exists on Earth, which led researchers to create artificial
astatine in the laboratory, then test it later using laser spectroscopy.
At Brookhaven National Laboratory’s National Synchrotron Light
Source, Upton, N. Y., researchers used x-ray spectroscopy to measure the
electronic behavior of a germanium-based transistor design that could allow
future transistors to become much smaller.
And at NIST, scientists redesigned the
electro-optic components of a spectrometer to allow them to test a wide
range of frequencies in a gas sample
in just milliseconds. They hope to
soon rapidly test greenhouse gas levels on a large scale.
All of this research culminated in
recently published work, representing
a tiny sliver of the research conducted
using spectrometric technologies
and instrumentation. Any research
requiring greater knowledge of chemical
properties or structure will rely on the application of spectrometry techniques.
But not all research requires a synchrotron or a custom-made spectrometer. Laboratory researchers and technicians require high-performance,
cost-effective spectroscopy solutions capable of both sensitivity and speed.
Because of spectroscopy’s inherent sensitivity and remarkable versatility, demand for cost-effective but potent instrument solutions is growing
strongly on a global basis.
For this reason, instrument vendors are compelled to take a leading role
in delivering innovations that help boost performance and answer R&D
economy has picked up again. After the government funding tapered off,
business has sort of taken over and has been doing fairly well.”
Adrian Holley, Dir. of Marketing for Trace Elemental Analysis at
Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, Mass., points to 2009 as a tough recession
year for the spectroscopy market. But positive changes in the pharmaceutical markets, particularly with regard to R&D investments, have generated
strong demand for instrumentation. Part of the reason, says Holley, is the
onset of more stringent regulations.
“There is a drive for more legislation on health-related markets. The push
has opened up new elemental chapters. The need for low detection and more
detection, as well as the need for our customers to comply with widening
regulations, means that demand is strong,” says Holley.
Brian Davies, VP for marketing and
product development at Thermo Fisher
Scientific, also sees strong growth in
“We’ve had stellar market
growth for molecular spectros-
copy products, such as the IF50.
We’ve seen an explosion of interest
in the analysis of new materials,” he says,
which he ties directly to demand. The
IF50 is one of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s
key Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) instru-
ments. “Customers need us to be able to look at
smaller samples and the boundaries between them. FTIR is particularly
strong in that area.”
Horiba Scientific’s LabRAM HR Evolution.
Image: Horiba Scientific
A growing, domestic technology
Innovations in the marketplace
Many of these spectroscopy innovations appear in R&D Magazine’s R&D
100 Awards. For example, the 2013 Awards included the 8800 from
Agilent Technologies, Japan, the first ICP-MS on the market with a tandem,
or MS/MS configuration. The addition of a quadrupole before and after
the collision cell allows the 8800 to precisely control ion travel, improving
sensitivity. P&P Optica’s PPO SWIR (short-wave infrared) spectrometer
is geared for industrial tasks—like process control and mining—and its
system design and gel gratings elevate signal-to-noise to 16000:1.
Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) is a prime
example of the changing spectrometry landscape. ICP-MS, which ionizes the sample with plasma prior to detection, has offered a substantial
improvement in performance over trace element analysis methods such
atomic absorption, particularly in tasks that require detection of metals.
But ICP-MS systems have been bulky, expensive and prone to interference
from trace contaminants. In recent years, the bar has been raised considerably; and several major companies, including Bruker, PerkinElmer and
Agilent, produce high-quality ICP-MS systems.
Thermo Fisher Scientific received an R&D 100 Award in 2013 for several innovations that have improved the usability and performance of its new