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Proceedings Paper

Rigorous comparison of the spectral SNR of FTIR and EC-QCL spectroscopy (Conference Presentation)
Author(s): David T. D. Childs; Richard A. Hogg; Kristian M. Groom; Dmitry G. Revin; Ihtesham U. Rehman; John W. Cockburn; Stephen J. Matcher

Paper Abstract

FTIR spectroscopy using a thermal light source has been the dominant method for obtaining infrared spectra since the 1950’s. Unfortunately the limited surface brightness and low spatial coherence of black-body radiators limits the spectral SNR in microspectroscopy and stand-off detection. Two recent innovations are addressing this problem a) FTIR instruments illuminated by high-spatial coherence broad-band supercontinuum sources and b) high spatial coherence narrow-band EC-QCL’s. Here we ask whether these two approaches offer equivalent sensitivity. By noting an analogy with near-infrared optical coherence tomography we rigorously show that the high temporal coherence of the EC-QCL brings an additional, very large SNR advantage over an FTIR instrument illuminated by a supercontinuum source under otherwise matched conditions. Specifically if a spectrum containing N points is recorded by both instruments using the same illumination intensity and the same detector noise level, then the EC-QCL can deliver a given spectral SNR in a time xN shorter than the FTIR instrument. This factor can reach x100, potentially even x1000, in realistic applications. We exploit the analogy with OCT further by developing a mid-infrared “swept laser”, using commercially available components, in which the tuning rate is much higher than in commercial EC-QCL devices. We use this swept laser to demonstrate the SNR advantage experimentally, using a custom-made EC-QCL spectrometer and PDMS polymer samples. We explore the potential upper limits on spectral acquisition rates, both from the fundamental kinetics of gain build-up in the external cavity and from likely mechanical limits on cavity tuning rates.

Paper Details

Date Published: 3 May 2016
PDF: 1 pages
Proc. SPIE 9704, Biomedical Vibrational Spectroscopy 2016: Advances in Research and Industry, 97040K (3 May 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2209063
Show Author Affiliations
David T. D. Childs, The Univ. of Sheffield (United Kingdom)
Richard A. Hogg, The Univ. of Sheffield (United Kingdom)
Kristian M. Groom, The Univ. of Sheffield (United Kingdom)
Dmitry G. Revin, The Univ. of Sheffield (United Kingdom)
Ihtesham U. Rehman, The Univ. of Sheffield (United Kingdom)
John W. Cockburn, The Univ. of Sheffield (United Kingdom)
Stephen J. Matcher, The Univ. of Sheffield (United Kingdom)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9704:
Biomedical Vibrational Spectroscopy 2016: Advances in Research and Industry
Anita Mahadevan-Jansen; Wolfgang Petrich, Editor(s)

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