Discrete frequency infrared spectroscopy with high-performance mid-IR photonic crystal resonators
Mid-infrared (mid-IR) spectroscopic imaging is an emerging combination of fundamental vibrational absorption spectroscopy and microscopy that provides a powerful analytical tool for visualizing the molecular content of a sample without the use of dyes, stains or destructive procedures.
Over the last 15 years, numerous applications including those in polymer composites, forensics, environmental science, geology, human tissue pathologies, palaeontology and plants have been reported. Almost all mid-IR imaging data acquired today are using Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR), in which a specimen is illuminated by broadband radiation using a Michelson interferometer. In this setup, intensity values at the detector are recorded at each of thousands of specific positions of the moving mirror and a Fourier transform is used to convert the time-domain signal to the wavelength domain. FT-IR imaging spectrometers are high-precision instruments but necessitate the acquisition of a continuous absorption spectrum over a large bandwidth. Despite the strengths of interferometer-based data acquisition, alternative approaches could be beneficial for many applications. The need to scan an entire interferogram, time, and resulting large data sizes can become crippling limitations, especially as the spatial resolution of microspectroscopic imaging increases. For many routine applications, such as environmental monitoring and industrial process control, only a small portion of the spectrum contains useful information, and a more rapid, robust and inexpensive instrument than an FT-IR spectrometer would be most appropriate. In cases where the relevant spectral wavelengths are known, a simpler imaging approach to acquire only these data would enable spectroscopic imaging to be applied in settings that have thus far been impossible. For example, multiple studies show that only a few wavelengths over the broad mid-IR range are required to provide all the information required for tissue histopathology, which can be speeded up 100-fold if only these frequencies could be recorded. This alternate approach to the dominant FT-IR imaging approach is emerging as a viable alternative and is termed discrete frequency IR (DF-IR) spectroscopic imaging. A significant topic of interest in this area is the development of a variety of devices for discrete frequency illumination, including selective emitters and resonant filters in mid-IR, and their optimal integration into an imaging system.
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