Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR spectroscopy) is an analytical technique used to identify the functional groups of a molecule. FTIR analysis is suitable for liquids, solids, and gases with covalent bonds.
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What is FTIR analysis used for?
FTIR is an effective analytical tool for material identification. Some of the most common applications include identifying chemical components in solid and aqueous samples. FTIR spectroscopy can also be used to identify microplastics in water samples. The technique is capable of quantifying different types of microplastic particles in several size ranges.
The operating principle of FTIR spectroscopy
The measured material (solid, liquid, or gas) is subjected to an infrared light spectrum. When different molecules absorb IR light, molecular vibration occurs. Different molecules and bonds vibrate in their own specific way. The amount of absorption and emission of IR light in the sample is measured with a detector. Collected data represents the intensity of light as a function of the position of a movable mirror inside the interferometer. The raw data is converted to a spectrum-friendly form via a mathematical process called Fourier transform. The final form represents light intensity as a function of wavenumber.
Advantages of FTIR compared to traditional IR spectroscopy
FTIR allows precise and simultaneous spectral data collection with a wide spectral range. This is made possible by a special arrangement of fixed and movable mirrors in the interferometer. The wide spectral range allows multiple frequencies of light to be directed at the sample at the same time. This makes FTIR more effective time-wise when compared to a traditional dispersive IR spectroscopy technique. FTIR also has a higher signal-to-noise ratio and high wavelength preciseness, making it more accurate than traditional IR spectroscopy.
Often, FTIR measurement does not require any sample preparation. For tricky samples, the material can be ground with IR transparent potassium bromide (KBr) and then pressed into a pellet form. Liquids can either be measured directly, or an IR transparent solvent can be used to make a dilution. Gas samples are placed in a cylinder-shaped cell with IR-transparent windows.
Suitable sample matrices
- Liquid, solid and gaseous materials
- Organic materials, such as plastic, paper, cardboard, biomass and solvents
- Inorganic compounds that absorb IR light
Ideal uses of FTIR
- Identification of functional groups
- Identification of unknown materials
- Comparing the chemical composition of different chemicals and materials
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Frequently asked questions
This technique is used to identify the functional groups present in the sample. FTIR is suitable for the identification of polymeric materials and for comparing the chemical composition of different chemicals and materials.
Metals do not absorb light in the IR range and are therefore not suitable for FTIR spectroscopy. Complex molecules and their mixtures cannot be reliably identified. FTIR also cannot detect diatomic or noble gases, such as N2 or He.
FTIR spectroscopy is suitable for solids, liquids and gases.
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