While they’ve existed for 60 years, few realize the importance of near-infrared (NIR) spectrometers for measuring energy reflected from or through various materials.
NIR spectrometer technology has seen great advances in the past six decades. While early devices were cumbersome and confined to laboratories, current NIR spectrometers leverage microprocessor control, precision A/D sampling and computerized spectrum calculation with statistical analysis for rapid results in a variety of locations.
Today, NIR spectrometers have four main uses:
- In the laboratory -- These are typically large, high-precision, general-purpose instruments. The computers processing spectral data can be internal or remotely located and connected via Ethernet or USB. They process enormous amounts of data and make comparisons to a distributed reference library in seconds.
- In the field -- Portable NIR spectrometers look similar to small laboratory units, which are moveable and usually run off an AC 110-V supply or a 12-V supply with inverter. Often they’re bigger than a lunchbox and can sit on the tailgate of a truck for use in the field or industrial settings, like a farm or mine.
- In the factory -- These specialized units monitor factory environments and are typically use specific. A factory install can contain multiple spectrometers on an assembly line linked via Ethernet or wirelessly to a main control facility.
- In your hand -- There is a big focus on making handheld spectrometers that are mobile and user friendly. Current examples can be battery operated and are about the size of a large hand drill. The benefit is that they are truly portable and run off a built-in power supply for remote use.
Today, the DLP products spectroscopy portfolio consists of two different chipsets that can be incorporated into modern NIR spectrometers. For ultra-mobile analysis, the DLP2010NIR digital micromirror device (DMD) supports programmable high-speed pattern rates up to 1,500 Hz for real-time measurements. This chip is the industry’s first fully programmable micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS) optimized for wavelength ranges of 700 – 2500 nm. When paired with Bluetooth® and Bluetooth low energy-enabled DLP NIRscan™ Nano evaluation module (EVM), designers can easily prototype portable analyzers to accelerate the development of embedded ultra-mobile spectrometers.
For high-performance systems, the DLP4500NIR DMD, featuring over one million micromirrors, supports programmable high-speed pattern rates up to 4,225 Hz and is also optimized for wavelengths ranging from 700-2500 nm. The corresponding DLP NIRscan EVM enables a 30,000:1 signal-to-noise ratio for less than one second measurements, allowing for fast and accurate material analysis.
Ongoing advances in the field are enabling smaller, cost-efficient devices that could ultimately make the technology viable for consumers. Imagine a smartphone with a built in NIR spectrometer to evaluate foods for ripeness, detect food allergens, confirm purity of expensive olive oils, assist in medical monitoring or check automotive fluids. TI believes there’s a bright future in NIR spectroscopy. .
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