FT-IR (Fourier transform-infrared spectroscopy) technology has progressed considerably over the past two decades, and it is now a relatively established analytical technique for process monitoring in addition to being a standard tool in the laboratory. Thermo Fisher's Nicolet iS10 FT-IR spectrometer enables chemists in analytical and investigative chemistry laboratories to take advantage of FT-IR, the technique of choice when it comes to analysis of raw materials and finished goods. "Spectral interpretation has remained the most significant hurdle in FT-IR," said Dr. Ian Jardine, vice president of global research and development for Thermo Fisher Scientific. "FT-IR rapidly gets the user from 'sample to spectrum. However, getting from the spectrum to actionable information, such as identification, was often a highly subjective, iterative and laborious process requiring high levels of skill and time." Compared to mass spectrometers, FTIR can be considered less sensitive, detecting low parts per million levels rather than the parts per billion and trillion sensitivities with MS systems. Nevertheless the higher cost of mass spectrometers compared to FTIR equipment, which unlike MS does not require a vacuum, and their ease of use and versatility means that FTIR instruments have ubiquitous applications. Using defined deconvolution protocols, the OMNIC Specta software, integrated with the Nicolet iS10, simplifies the interpretation process allowing users to identify individual components in a mixture from a single spectrum in one simple step. Materials can be identified in a fraction of the time by scientists with basic chemical knowledge The Nicolet iS10 uses a feature known as Spectral Performance Verification (SPV), which monitors the accuracy and performance of the spectrometer on a regular basis, which helps to avoid the possibility of repeating tests. "The instrument checks can be carried out overnight, ensuring that the system is fully prepared for the following day," commented Thermo Fisher. The best known application of FT-IR spectroscopy is reaction monitoring, a portion of which falls under the definition of process analytical technology (PAT) in the pharmaceutical industry. FT-IR is also useful for identifying the level of key nutritional components in foods. According to Spectroscopy magazine the combined worldwide market for these applications for process FT-IR is estimated to be $20m, and it is expected to see double-digit growth for some time to come. Indeed, fellow FT-IR product specialists Shimadzu believe the market is set for a period of rapid growth, particularly in Asia, where in China, India, and Southeast Asia, demand for general-purpose FTIR units (analysing films and plastics, foreign materials in pharmaceuticals and food products, and verifying the raw materials used in pharmaceuticals prescribed by pharmacopoeias in various countries) is expected to increase by 7 per cent or more every year. "General-purpose FTIR spectrophotometers now account for 60 per cent of the total FTIR market, with the worldwide market for general-purpose FTIR units estimated at 28 billion yen ($282m) per year," Shimadzu said back in February of this year.