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Sensitivity Advantage of QCL Tunable-Laser Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy over FTIR Spectroscopy

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  • D.T.D. Childs
  • R.A. Hogg
  • D.G. Revin
  • I.U. Rehman
  • J.W. Cockburn
  • S.J. Matcher
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2015
Issue number10
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)822-839
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Interest in mid-infrared spectroscopy instrumentation beyond classical FTIR using a thermal light source has increased dramatically in recent years. Synchrotron, supercontinuum, and external-cavity quantum cascade laser light sources are emerging as viable alternatives to the traditional thermal black-body emitter (Globar), especially for remote interrogation of samples ("stand-off" detection) and for hyperspectral imaging at diffraction-limited spatial resolution ("microspectroscopy"). It is thus timely to rigorously consider the relative merits of these different light sources for such applications. We study the theoretical maximum achievable signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of FTIR using synchrotron or supercontinuum light vs. that of a tunable quantum cascade laser, by reinterpreting an important result that is well known in near-infrared optical coherence tomography imaging. We rigorously show that mid-infrared spectra can be acquired up to 1000 times faster - using the same detected light intensity, the same detector noise level, and without loss of SNR - using the tunable quantum cascade laser as compared with the FTIR approach using synchrotron or supercontinuum light. We experimentally demonstrate the effect using a novel, rapidly tunable quantum cascade laser that acquires spectra at rates of up to 400 per second. We also estimate the maximum potential spectral acquisition rate of our prototype system to be 100,000 per second. © 2015 © David T. D. Childs, Richard A. Hogg, Dmitry G. Revin, Ihtseham Ur Rehman, John W. Cockburn, and Stephen J. Matcher.