Editorial Feature

Latest Developments in Spectroscopy

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From analyzing the composition of an unknown material, to scanning the heavens for signs of life, spectroscopy has a multitude of uses; some of which are already known and others are yet to be discovered.

Spectroscopy is a scientific tool that is constantly being upgraded as its being used.

Spectroscopy on a Chip

Using spectroscopic technology, researchers at MIT have developed miniaturized infrared sensing systems to detect material concentrations. This type of analysis is typically performed on a benchtop, but the MIT technology allows the same analysis to be conducted on a 2 square-centimeter chip.

Anuradha Agarwal, who led the MIT team, said the systems will enable massive sensor networks that can monitor “everything in life, starting with food, water, air, and light.”

While a lot of spectroscopic technology is focused on the near-infrared part of the infrared spectrum, Agarwal’s team developed chip technology capable of scanning in the mid-infrared and far-infrared parts of the spectrum, or at wavelengths from about 3 microns to about 12 microns.

Agarwal said this part of the spectrum provides more possibilities, due to the vibration responses from molecules at these wavelengths.

Smartphone Spectroscopy

In an effort to provide the average man with additional information about what is going on in their body, the company Cor has developed a smartphone-based kit that can perform a spectroscopic analysis on a blood sample.

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The user starts their analysis by drawing a blood sample with one of the provided single-use cartridges. The cartridge is then inserted into a scanner that uses infrared light to analyze the blood sample. Within minutes, raw data is sent to Cor’s servers where it is processed using the company’s algorithms. The results of the analysis are then sent to the user’s smartphone app. The results are accompanied by personalized health recommendations, such as changes to diet or exercise routines.

Users can also track their results over time through the app, seeing what any changes to their routine have done to their results.

Optimizing Plant Productivity Using Spectroscopy

Due to global food demands, farmers in remote parts of the world need to maximize their agricultural yield. In a report published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, a pair of Danish researchers argued that spectroscopy could be used to maximize the effectiveness of plant fertilizers by analyzing the mineral content of soil and the plants themselves.

The report pointed out that major drawbacks of the conventional technologies used to analyze soil and plants include time-consuming testing, excessive laboratory work and difficulty in comparing from region to region. The researchers noted that spectroscopy techniques operating in several different wavelengths have successfully been able to identify soil characteristics in particular.

The Danish team suggested that fast spectroscopy offers the chance to analyze soil and plants in the field with instant results. Current technologies allow for the analysis of mineral, chlorophyll and nutrient content.

Using Spectroscopy Errors

A spectroscopy analysis often produces anomalies that scientists try to filter out or ignore. However, researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently found that these flaws could be leveraged to gain even more of an insight than what is normally possible.

According to a report published in the journal Physical Review B, researchers used the spectrometry flaws to tune their instruments in such a way that it allows them to gain even more information on the magnetic properties of materials. More specifically, the unique tuning offers more details on “charge ordering, crystal field splitting, spin-orbit coupling, optical dichroism and other physical phenomena associated with broken symmetries,” the researchers said in their report.

References and Further Reading

Chemical Sensing on a Chip

Smartphone Spectroscopy Kit Brings Blood Test Info Home

Recent Developments in Fast Spectroscopy for Plant Mineral Analysis

Novel Spectroscopy by Using Aberrations

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Brett Smith

Written by

Brett Smith

Brett Smith is an American freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Buffalo State College and has 8 years of experience working in a professional laboratory.

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