Near-infrared spectroscopy

Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy is an effective method with qualitative and quantitative applications. A NIR spectrometer measures overtones and combination tones of molecular vibrations in the infrared range. The obtained data can be used to for example determine substance concentrations and identify raw materials.

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What is NIR spectroscopy?

Near-infrared spectroscopy is a method that uses light between visible and infrared wavelength ranges (approximately 800 - 2500 nm) and measures the absorption of light as a function of wavelength. The near-infrared light that interacts with the sample has specific wavelengths that are absorbed by the sample according to certain chemical bonds being present in the sample, e.g. C-H, O-H, S-H and N-H. NIR spectroscopy is capable of examining both irregular surfaces, such as food and feed, and more carefully prepared samples, such as pharmaceuticals. NIR spectroscopy is a quick and low-cost method, with capability of analyzing hundreds of samples in a day with very little running costs. The data from a single NIR spectroscopy run can be used to predict several different results.

How does NIR spectroscopy work?

Near-infrared spectroscopy is based on the use of electromagnetic radiation. Near-infrared spectroscopy uses a diffraction grating to separate light into desired wavelengths. This light is then directed at the sample. The light scattered off and blasted through the sample is collected by a special diode array detector that measures its transmittance and absorbance. A reflectance spectrum is then created to present the obtained data. The transmitted and absorbed light depends on the composition of the sample. When electromagnetic radiation is directed at the sample, it is the carried energy of the radiation that causes different interactions, such as overtones in molecular vibrations in certain chemical bonds present in the sample. Different bonds interact at different energy levels. The overtones of different bonds absorb energy at specific wavelengths that are characteristic of their structure. It is known that several overtones can overlap within one spectrum. Therefore it can be difficult to assign specific features to specific chemical components. This is where NIR calibration comes in handy. With carefully selected calibration samples and reference analysis methods, NIR spectroscopy can be calibrated to ensure its precision in chemical concentration analysis.

What is NIR spectroscopy used for?

NIR spectroscopy is commonly used for determining the compositional and functional properties of the sample, identifying materials, and as part of process control. The most common fields of study where NIR spectroscopy is used are agriculture, food and feed, pharmaceuticals, and different medical and physiological diagnostics. In food and feed, NIR spectroscopy is an effective tool for measuring moisture, protein, fat, free fatty acids, ethanol, density, solids, organic acids, carbohydrate profile, and other important constituents. NIR spectroscopy also has applications in material sciences as it can be used as a tool for measuring film thickness and studying the optical characteristics of nanoparticles.

What is the difference between NIR and IR spectroscopy?

NIR and IR spectroscopy both use electromagnetic radiation and measured absorbance and transmittance to gain data from a sample. But when comparing NIR spectroscopy and regular IR spectroscopy, there are a few key differences. Light in the near-infrared region can typically penetrate deeper into the sample when compared to regular infrared radiation. This means that NIR spectroscopy is not a very sensitive method but is very useful when studying bulk materials. Regular IR spectroscopy is more accurate in identifying functional groups and materials. Near-infrared spectroscopy can be used in the presence of interfering substances, such as glass or plastic containers. These materials can be used as cell windows and focusing lenses. Mid-IR radiation is absorbed by many common materials and therefore more expensive special materials have to be used in lenses and windows in order to maintain high quality precision. Another major difference between the two methods lies is that quantitative calculations with NIR are more complex, calibration is more complicated and calibration data is not very well transferable to other instruments. Calibration data in mid-IR is much more generic and therefore much easily transferable to other instruments.

Sample requirements and preparation

NIR spectroscopy requires little to no sample preparation. As a technique it is non-destructible, meaning it does not harm the sample. The method is suitable for all kinds of samples that have molecules with C-H, O-H, S-H and/or N-H bonds. Water is reasonably transparent in the NIR region making it a suitable solvent for different applications.

Need a NIR spectroscopy analysis?

Measurlabs offers NIR spectroscopy analyses of high quality with fast results and affordable prices. If you have any questions about your sample or its suitability for the method, our experts are always happy to help. You can contact us through the form below or by emailing us at info@measurlabs.com.

Suitable sample matrices

  • Food and feed products
  • Raw materials
  • Pills and tablets
  • Hydrogen bond containing samples
  • All sorts of biological systems

Ideal uses

  • Food ingredients analysis
  • Material analysis, e.g. pulp and paper
  • Pharmaceutical development
  • Medical and physiological diagnostics
  • Process- and quality control

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Frequently asked questions

What is NIR spectroscopy used for?

NIR spectroscopy is commonly used for determining the compositional and functional properties of the sample. The most common fields of study where NIR spectroscopy is used are agriculture, food and feed, pharmaceuticals, and different medical and physiological diagnostics.

What samples are suitable for NIR-spectroscopy?

The method is suitable for all kinds of samples that have molecules with C-H, O-H, S-H and/or N-H bonds. Typical samples are food and feed products, pharmaceuticals, and biological samples.

What are the limitations of NIR spectroscopy?

NIR-spectroscopy is not a very sensitive method compared to for example IR-spectroscopy, and the quantitative calculations with NIR are also more complex.

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.