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Portable FTIR a hit at Pittcon

By Huw Kidwell, 06-Mar-2008

Related topics: Processing

Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) has hit the headlines at Pittcon 2008 with the release of ground breaking instruments from a number of companies.

A2 Technologies released its new portable Exoscan FTIR spectrophotometer for applications which have to take place outside the laboratory - for example coatings on composite aircraft wings which are physically too large to be brought to lab (Exoscan will allow non-destructive analysis). Other hand-held FTIR offerings include a more robust version of the Exoscan by Smith Detection for security applications (A2 and Smith have been in collaboration).

In the same vein Ahura Scientific has also recently released a hand-held Raman FTIR system for chemical detection and identification in the field called the TruDefender.

In the past it has been recognised that FTIR is a very powerful analytical technique but it has been limited by the portability of the instruments outside of the laboratory. The Exoscan is a hand-held instrument (less than 7lbs in weight) that can be used in the field or in the laboratory (there is a docking station and a built-in solids press so that it can be used as a conventional lab FTIR). The instrument operates in the 650 to 4,000 cm-1 mid IR range with a resolution of 4 cm-1 (Michelson interferometer) using either external reflectance or internal attenuated total reflectance (ATR) interfaces (interchangeable on the same instrument).

Exoscan has a PDA-like control panel, which is then able to download the collected data to a laptop wirelessly (store methods and analyse data). The FTIR can also be set up for the non-expert as it has a multi-level user interface (three level software architecture) so that data can be collected using simplified methods and then analysed by experts later.

Applications include evaluation of metal surface analysis, surface coating analysis (organic and inorganic coatings) and thickness determination among others and in a variety of areas which will not have had access to this type of technology previously - such as construction, aerospace, marine, semiconductor, as well as the more traditional areas for FTIR use such as biomedical, pharmaceutical and polymer/composite manufacturers. Certainly the new Exoscan will increase the utility of FTIR and provide access for a number of new industries to a powerful technique.

Jon Frattaroli, the CEO of A2 Technologies, commented at the launch: "The Exoscan is about to change the way FTIR is used across the chemical and a number of other industries... the utility of the method has been proved and we have just provided the tool, which can be used either in the field or indeed in the conventional lab environment if required."