One of the inventors of the early telegraph, Dr. David Alter, a nearly forgotten Pennsylvanian, found a fragment of a great mass of very brilliant glass from a glass house, which had been destroyed in the great Pittsburgh Fire of 1845. From this, he made a prism through which he went on to discover Spectrum Analysis in 1853. He published his findings in the American Journal of Science and Art in 1854.
While Dr. Alter accurately predicted, in his published report, that spectral analysis could be used to detect elements in shooting stars or luminous meteors, the intellectually curious doctor would have been pleased to know that one of its future uses would be to identify the properties of unknown materials.
Used from the Stars to the Earth
FTIR (Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy) is a type of spectral analysis which measures the range of wavelengths in the infrared region that are absorbed by a material. This is accomplished through the application of infrared radiation (IR) to samples of a material. The sample’s absorption of the infrared light’s energy at various wavelengths is measured to determine the material’s molecular composition and structure.
Raw material, when it first arrives at a facility, often must have its composition verified. In order to accomplish this, an identity test, e.g. FTIR testing, must be completed. Since FTIR has the capability of fingerprinting molecular structure, it is a precise tool for identifying materials and enhancing quality control. Unknown materials are identified by searching the spectrum against a database of reference spectra.
Fast and Furious Results
FTIR is used for identity testing in thousands of companies in a wide variety of industries. In the past, the primary criticism of using FTIR for identity testing was that the sample preparation was slow and complicated. The development of diamond ATR’s, which enables samples to be examined directly in the solid or liquid state without further preparation, solved this problem.
An FTIR equipped with a diamondATRaccessory can obtain spectra on powders, solids, liquids and polymers in a matter of seconds. As a result, due to the speed and simplicity of the process, FTIR testing is the preferred material analysis technique. Who would have thought that this technology is a result of one man finding a piece of broken glass? Thank you Dr. Alter!
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