Employed in fields ranging from forensics to astrophysics to industrial chemistry, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) systems vary considerably in price, performance, and flexibility. Before investing in one of these instruments, scientists should define how they plan to use the technology and which materials they will examine with the equipment.

Manufacturers say that basic infrared spectroscopy technology has neared maturity; as a result, most standard units produced by different manufacturers are likely to perform equally well. The sophistica- tion of FT-IR accessories, however, is constantly advancing, so scientists should seek systems with flexibility to accommodate additions as the technology evolves.

FT-IR spectroscopy uses the Fourier transform mathematical process to obtain the spectra of samples irradiated by an infrared spectrometer. The spectrometer is composed of three basic parts—an optical head or bench, a computer, and the electronics required to conned the two. The quality of these components varies according to the...

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