FTIR microscopy

Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) microscopy, also known as µ-FTIR or micro-FTIR, is an analytical technique that makes it possible to obtain an FTIR spectrum from a microscopic region of a sample. The method has applications in a wide range of industries due to its ability to identify the chemical composition of small areas or particles.

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What is FTIR microscopy used for?

FTIR microscopy is suitable for a wide range of sample matrices and is especially useful for quality control due to its ability to identify the source of microscopic contaminants within a product. These can be particles such as hair, dust, or microplastics. Quality control is an essential part of R&D and manufacturing for companies in the pharmaceutical, food, and consumer goods industries. 

The technique can also be used to analyze the surface chemistry of adhesives, coatings, and thin films by identifying the chemical groups present on the surface that can affect the adhesive or hydrophobic/hydrophilic properties. 

Finally, FTIR microscopy can be used for material failure analysis studies. For example, the identification of a particle on the fractured surface of a material can give information about the defect that caused the failure.

How does µ-FTIR work?

FTIR is used to characterize regions of a sample based on their unique FTIR spectral “fingerprint”. The molecular groups or bonds that make up a substance uniquely interact with infrared light. Because of this, it is possible to identify specific chemicals, plastics, or other forms of matter by matching the spectrum to an established library of substances. 

In FTIR microscopy, an optical microscope is used to identify areas of interest and irradiate them with infrared light. This yields a spectrum for a specific microscopic region of the sample. 

The results can be as simple as a single spectrum for one location, or a collection of IR spectra, visualized as a 2D map highlighting the distribution of different chemical compounds in different colors.

Sample requirements and preparation

ATR mode is suitable for almost all sample types with little to no preparation. For transmittance and reflectance modes, samples must be < 20 µm thick. A suitable thickness can be achieved using microtome preparation.

Advantages and limitations of FTIR microscopy

Compared to conventional FTIR, the addition of microscopy allows the sample's chemical composition to be visualized at different points of interest. 

The resolution of FTIR microscopy is approximately 5–10 µm (depending on the equipment), which limits its usefulness in semiconductor applications, where a nanometer-level resolution is often required.

Suitable sample matrices

  • Organic compounds
  • Coatings
  • Thin films
  • Food
  • Pharmaceuticals

Ideal uses of FTIR microscopy

  • Material characterization
  • Failure analysis
  • Quality control & contamination assays
  • Surface chemistry analysis

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Frequently asked questions

What is Measurlabs?

Measurlabs offers a variety of laboratory analyses for product developers and quality managers. We perform some of the analyses in our own lab, but mostly we outsource them to carefully selected partner laboratories. This way we can send each sample to the lab that is best suited for the purpose, and offer high-quality analyses with more than a thousand different methods to our clients.

How does the service work?

When you contact us through our contact form or by email, one of our specialists will take ownership of your case and answer your query. You get an offer with all the necessary details about the analysis, and can send your samples to the indicated address. We will then take care of sending your samples to the correct laboratories and write a clear report on the results for you.

How do I send my samples?

Samples are usually delivered to our laboratory via courier. Contact us for further details before sending samples.