7 Jul 2016

Your new favourite analysis method: spectroscopy highlights

The process spectroscopy sector is anticipated to be worth billions by 2020.

What does this mean for Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)? The versatile technique is taking over due to how quick, easy and accurate its analysis is.

Below are some interesting applications for which spectroscopy equipment was used.


An electronic tongue(!)

Henry VIII and Ivan the Terrible probably would have taken your hand off (literally) for the chance to test their food for poison with a device capable of determining the chemical profile of food in seconds.


ATR (Attenuated Total Reflectance) FTIR spectroscopy was used to rapidly determine the sugar and acid profile of four tomato cultivars:  Aranca, Climaks, Clotilde and DRW 73-29. The ‘electronic tongue’ consisted of “27 potentiometric sensors.”

This is capable of determining the compounds present which determine tomato flavour.

Read more about food analysis here.

How old is that bone?

Historic England (formerly named English Heritage) used the Golden Gate ATR spectrometer accessory to pre-screen collagen content when they radiocarbon dated some bone samples.


Radiocarbon dating of bone samples depends on the integrity of bone collagen, the substance which tells analysts the age of the bone. So integrity tests were essential for the selection of representative samples for the multivariate analysis across a range of bones.

Read more about Historic England radiocarbon dating bone here.

When Oxford University were carbon dating the bones of Richard III, they used our pellet pressing equipment to prepare the sample for analysis (shameless plug!).

Cocaine vs caffeine

This isn’t an electronic nose. The Golden Gate ATR spectrometer accessory was used by the Illinois State Police Department to produce spectral fingerprints of cocaine and caffeine.


The ATR technique allowed them to attain very detailed readings of samples in their native state. They also analyzed cocaine in KBr pellet form, but the resolution was significantly lower.

Read more about cocaine analysis here.

Fat content of chocolate

We went through the tough task of analysing fat content in melted chocolate, using the Pearl liquid FTIR transmission spectrometer accessory.

We found the technique perfect for quality-checking and easy to clean-up.

Heavy metal (in soil)

There is an acceptable amount of natural ionizing radiation, present in soils, rocks, air, water, the human body, even food. We're immune to it, along with most organisms on the planet.


But heavy metals are so dense and chemically toxic that they can have a very radioactively adverse effect on the health of people, animals and plant life.

In a study featured in Soil Remediation and Plants: Prospects and Challenges, the soils of Bangladesh were analyzed for heavy metals and other radioactive contaminants. In this part of the world, agricultural areas are particularly vulnerable to soil contamination from water that has passed industrial sites, moving through crop irrigation from rivers.

Soil samples from an area around the city of Dhaka and other rural areas of the country was collected randomly in triplicate. Specac pellet pressing equipment was used in the preparation of the sample.

Iron, lead, manganese and zinc were among the most common metals found in soil samples, although iron may well have been partly common due to high levels of natural regional occurrence.

Read more about soil analysis here.

Milk and honey

Milk: We used our Pearl FTIR transmission spectrometer accessory to analyze milk for fat and lactose content. This isn’t just a process used to make sure your milk is adequately skimmed – or not if you only like full fat in your tea.


Milk analysis is important for dairy farmers to evaluate the health of their cows. FTIR spectroscopy is a great way to quickly look at milk quality without awkward sample preparation and cleaning up.

Read the milk analysis study here.

Honey: FTIR spectroscopy can actually tell you what flowers the bees visited to make the honey on your crumpets.

North Brazilian honey was analyzed with the Golden Gate ATR accessory by the University of Sao Paulo. They characterised the botanical origin of various honey samples, combining spectral patterns with different flora.

According to the study, "mid-infrared spectrometry can be used as a screening method for the routine analysis of Brazilian honey, with the advantages of being rapid, non-destructive, and accurate."

Read more about honey analysis here.

Check out #SpectroscopySolutions for more.