Infrared Microscopy and Imaging

The combination of infrared (IR) spectroscopy with optical microscopy is not a particularly novel concept. However, technological advances have significantly advanced this subset of IR spectroscopy into a more widely applicable analytical technique.

The pairing of IR spectrometers with optical microscopes is a technique that has been used for the better part of two decades to provide chemical information about specific points of interest on a sample. Such instrument configurations, however, were of limited application in that they could not easily or rapidly provide a map of the distribution of compounds or physical characteristics across a sample.

Recent technological improvements have included smaller spot-size resolution and better sample-stage automation that allow scientists to map specific characteristics of a sample that can be discerned with IR spectroscopy. These improvements, combined with better electronics and software, now provide spatial resolution down to 3 µm, along with spectral resolution of better than one wavenumber (1 cm-1). This has led to the development of IR imaging systems that can provide a detailed chemometric map of a sample nearly as quickly as older single-point IR microscopes could analyze a single spot.

Initially, applications for IR microscopes were limited, as they could only analyze individual locations of interest that were pinpointed by the microscope. Failure analysis for polymers and semiconductor materials were two early applications. However, the advent of mapping and imaging capabilities has widened the scope of applications. Now products such as semiconductor chips, polymer materials and solid dosage form pharmaceuticals can be mapped for quality control. Forensic scientists can analyze everything from paint chips to forged documents. Some of the most interesting applications for IR microscopy and imaging are in biotechnology and clinical analysis, where the technique is being used to examine disease processes and to develop drug delivery systems.

The major vendors in the IR microscope market are essentially the same as those that dominate the benchtop IR market, with the one exception being FOSS A/S, which focuses on IR and near infrared–based food analysis instrumentation. The top four vendors, which account for over 70% of the IR microscope market, are Bruker, JASCO, PerkinElmer and Thermo Fisher Scientific.

The global market for IR microscopy and imaging is forecast to total more than $130 million in 2008. Despite some contraction in demand from the semiconductor and electronics industry, and likely weakness in the polymers industry, steady growth in demand from the pharmaceutical industry and continued rapid growth in biotech and clinical applications will propel the market’s growth. Annual growth for 2009 is likely to be in the mid-single digits, but should pick back up to more than 7% annual growth through 2013.

IR Microscopy and Imaging

at a Glance:

Leading Suppliers

• Bruker


• PerkinElmer

Largest Markets

• Semiconductors

• Pharmaceuticals

• Polymers

Instrument Cost

• $35,000–$130,000

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