Nano-FTIR: A new era in modern analytical chemistry

Basque Research: “Researchers from the nanoscience research center NanoGUNE (San Sebastian, Spain), the university of Munich (LMU, Germany) and Neaspec GmbH (Martinsried, Germany) present a new instrumental development that solves a prime question of materials science and nanotechnology: how to chemically identify materials at the nanometer scale (F. Huth et al., Nano Letters, 2012, DOI: 10.1021/nl301159v).

Nanoscale chemical identification and mapping of materials now becomes possible with nano-FTIR, an optical technique that combines scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM) and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. By illuminating the metalized tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) with a broadband infrared laser, and analyzing the backscattered light with a specially designed Fourier Transform spectrometer, the researchers could demonstrate local infrared spectroscopy with a spatial resolution of less than 20 nm. “Nano-FTIR thus allows for fast and reliable chemical identification of virtually any infrared-active material on the nanometer scale”, says Florian Huth, who performed the experiments.

An important aspect of enormous practical relevance is that the nano-FTIR spectra match extremely well with conventional FTIR spectra, while the spatial resolution is increased by more than a factor of 300 compared to 

conventional infrared spectroscopy. “The high sensitivity to chemical composition combined with ultra-high resolution makes nano-FTIR a unique tool for research, development and quality control in polymer chemistry, biomedicine and pharmaceutical industry” concludes Rainer Hillenbrand, leader of the Nanooptics group at nanoGUNE.””

I wonder if this could ever be used to provide real-time identification of medication in solid as well as aqueous form. How about real-time identification of counterfeit drugs? Sounds like lots of possibilities.

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