Miniaturized NIR spectrometer smaller than a sugar cube

January 17, 2013 // By Julien Happich
The Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS announced it will be presenting an extremely miniaturized near-infrared spectrometer at Photonics West.

This device enables analysis of gaseous, liquid and solid materials immediately on site instead of taking samples for lab analysis. The optical bench is smaller than a sugar cube and thus it might fit into mobile devices as well as in automated process analysis tools.

Whether it is freshness testing of food, separation of plastics in recycling, analysis of raw materials in the pharmaceutical industry or measurements of the composition of liquids in automobile application, measurement through spectroscopy (the analysis of light scattered or attenuated by the material) takes place without direct contact and is non-destructive.

Despite these advantages and while today's market does offer many spectrometers for lab use there are few systems for simple on-location measurements. There are two major reasons for this: First most of these instruments use one or two dimensional photodiode arrays of III-V semiconductors like indium-gallium-arsenide, which inflate costs, and second they are voluminous for technological reasons. With miniaturized grating spectrometers this will change, says Dr. Heinrich Grüger, who is responsible for the “Sensors and Actuators Systems” business unit at Fraunhofer IPMS, where the spectrometer has been developed. “Our new hybrid-integrated system has a volume of 2.1 cm³ only, which is about 30% smaller than a common sugar cube. Due to its small outline and low power consumption of only a few milliwatts, it is ideal for integration into mobile measurement instruments and in situ measurements in facilities and buildings.”

With the scanning grating spectrometers developed by Fraunhofer IPMS, the light is diffracted on a movable optical grating realized in a MEMS technology. The device uses a resonantly driving principle of the grating which enables to scan a spectrum with a single highly sensitive detector instead of an array arrangement. The central element of the spectrometer is a MEMS chip which has been developed by Fraunhofer IPMS and measures just 9.5×5.3×0.5 mm³. The MEMS scanner featuring the diffraction grating and both optical slits is