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I am a backer of this Kickstarter: SCiO Near IR Spectroscopy

Here is a link to their technology: SCiO Technology

Question: How short of full IR spectroscopy do you think this device is? I have asked them whether we could program the SCiO to act as an IR spectrometer, and they have said this would require additional programming (which I am not qualified to do). But I am wondering if there would still be limitations. Conversely, Consumer Physics seems to imply that our taking more observations with the SCiO will make the device smarter and more useful.

This is obviously a question directed at experts in IR spectroscopy, which I am most definitely not.

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This is more or less speculation, since they haven't released detailed technical specifications, but given the size of the instrument and the need to avoid moving parts to keep it durable, I would wager that it uses an IR LED for illumination, a diffraction grating for dispersion (although from the picture, it doesn't look like there's room for a conventional reflective diffraction grating setup so they might be doing something else), and probably some kind of silicon CCD or InGaAs diode array for detection. If this is the case, it's likely impossible to convert for use in conventional IR spectroscopy—not as a matter of programming, but simply that the hardware is not equipped to do it. Normal mid-IR spectroscopy (below about $4000\mathrm{\ cm^{-1}}$) involves much longer wavelengths beyond what LEDs can do, which generally means some kind of incandescent lamp, optics that don't involve glass (which blocks mid-IR), and a detector that can deal with such low energy photons (there are a few semiconductor-based sensors that looks promising, but most spectrometers use thermal detectors). There is also the matter of dealing with all the water in the air—many IR spectrometers have gas purge systems in their sample chambers.

There has been a lot of interest in standoff IR spectroscopy for things like explosives detection and advances in mid-IR optics and sensors may make this kind of small instrument possible, but we're not quite there yet. Certainly an instrument designed for NIR is not likely to have any usefulness for mid-IR, without being designed with it in mind.

A related technique that is much better suited to small handheld instruments is raman spectroscopy, since the light involved is actually usually in the NIR. I doubt this thing is sensitive enough to do it well, but it might be possible to add filters to the illumination and measurement ports to give it a shot. It's definitely possible to do raman with a handheld instrument though—I saw one of these at a conference recently. Quite expensive, but very nifty.

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    $\begingroup$ We had a sales rep come into the office this morning with a handheld XRF, not much bigger than a football. Ran some elemental analysis on a couple of our coatings -- impressive tech. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Jun 25 '15 at 2:21

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