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Techniques & Tools Spectroscopy

2022: Retrospectroscopy

Earlier this year we launched our new-look newsletters, aiming not only to deliver the latest articles from The Analytical Scientist website, but also to curate the most important news from across the spectroscopy world – distilled into a quick read. 

So, as 2022 comes to a close, we present a selection of some of the most striking and significant news we’ve curated over the past year – from acquisitions and business collaborations, to many great leaps forward in research and innovation. 

Happy New Year!

January
 

All hands to the pump. What connects quantum computers and migratory birds? They both rely on radical pairs… The observation of spin dynamics in radical pairs remains challenging, despite recent technological advances. Now, researchers from the Universities of Konstanz, Würzburg, and Novosibirsk have developed a new way to monitor the spin evolution in radical-pairs and read out the singlet/triplet ratio. Termed “pump-push spectroscopy,” the technique allows “snapshots” of the radical pair’s spin state to be captured at specific points in time. The researchers hope their work will lead to a better understanding of how migratory birds use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate across vast distances. It could also open up new avenues in quantum computing and in the field of organic solar cells.  

Researchers from Rice University and the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research discovered that Portland cement contains microscopic crystals of silicon emitting near-infrared photoluminescence. They applied a layer of opaque paint to a cement block and compressed it to induce microcracks, exposing the substrate’s near-infrared emission and revealing the fracture locations, pattern, and progression. 

February 
 

MR spectroscopy for multiple sclerosis diagnosis. A team of researchers at the Medical University of Vienna used magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy with a 7-tesla magnet to compare the neurochemical changes in MS patients with healthy controls. They were able to visualize pathologic findings beyond lesions, with metabolic abnormalities detected in normal-appearing white matter and cortical gray matter. Based on the results, the researchers suggest 7-tesla spectroscopic MR imaging could be a valuable new tool in the diagnosis and treatment of MS patients.

Lightsense Technology announced a partnership with Pure Norwegian Seafood AS to develop new multi-spectral instruments based on Enhanced Photodetection Spectroscopy (EPS) technology. The aim? To detect bacterial pathogens in salmon processing and, therefore, reduce the financial impact of food contamination.

Rohit Bhargava was presented with the 2022 Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Award – demonstrating his outstanding achievements in the field of spectroscopy

March
 

Probing COVID-19 immune response. Researchers from the Institute of Infectology in Sao Paulo, Brazil, have used Fourier-transform infrared reflectance spectroscopy (micro-FTIR) to explore blood serum samples of healthy and COVID-19 positive individuals, finding that the 1702–1785 cm−1 spectral window (carbonyl C=O vibration) is a spectral marker of the degree of IgG glycosylation, which was in turn linked to the degree of COVID-19 symptom severity. “Considering the minimal and reagent-free sample preparation procedures combined with fast (few minutes) outcome of FTIR, we can state that this technology is suitable for fast screening of immune response of individuals with COVID-19,” say the authors.

A new separation-free bacterial identification technique showed promise in reducing the time it takes to diagnose infectious diseases. The researchers paired SERS with a new deep-learning model called the dual-branch wide-kernel network (DualWKNet) to avoid time-consuming bacterial separation steps, while detecting bacteria with 98 percent accuracy.

Thermo Fisher Scientific acquired Max Analytical Technologies, a producer of FTIR-based gas analysis solutions for process monitoring.

April 
 

The spectral war on drugs. Researchers from the Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil, coupled Raman spectroscopy with principal component analysis (PCA) and interval principal component analysis to analyze samples of cocaine, crack – including their main adulterants and diluents – as well as tablets of ecstasy and alcoholic solutions contaminated with benzodiazepines. They were able to identify the illicit drugs even in the presence of contaminants.

As part of the EU MOON project, researchers designed a novel eye scanner, combining Raman spectroscopy and optical coherence tomography (OCT). The scanner not only provides a high-resolution image using OCT, but also adds molecular information to the visualization of internal eye structures, enabling spectroscopic and functional identification of tissue status.

May
 

Beating back bacteria. With the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria growing, researchers from the University of Agriculture and the University of Education in Faisalabad, both in Pakistan, developed a surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) method for the identification and characterization of colistin-resistant and susceptible E. coli strains. Comparing spectral features from three susceptible strains to three colistin-resistant strains, they were able to distinguish between the two with 100 percent specificity, 99.8 percent sensitivity, and 100 percent accuracy. 

Researchers used imaging spectroscopy to monitor plant diversity from space. Specifically, they decided to observe plant beta-diversity (the diversity of plant communities within a certain region). The results showed that changes in plant species composition can be reliably assessed using imaging spectroscopy at the beta-diversity scale.

June
 

A promising breast cancer diagnosis method? Current methods of breast cancer diagnosis are time-consuming, costly and often dependent on physician experience. In search of a more reliable diagnosis method, a group of  researchers came up with a promising diagnosis method combining serum Raman spectroscopy and different classification algorithms.

Using flame-sprayed nanoparticles, researchers used SERS-based nano-sensors to rapidly detect pesticides in apples without damaging the fruit.

July
 

First-of-its-kind Biofinder? A team of researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa developed a highly-sensitive “Biofinder'' tool to detect organic fluorescence signals. Using biofluorescence imaging, they were able to accurately detect bio-residue in fish fossils from the 34-56 million year-old Green River formation. The authors corroborated these results with Raman and attenuated total reflection Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopies, scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy. Results confirmed once more that biological residues can survive millions of years, and that using biofluorescence imaging can efficiently detect these traces now. The authors hope that this technology may aid NASA’s “Search for life”, one the major goals of NASA planetary exploration missions.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, NASA, and European Space Agency collaborated to investigate the X-ray universe using high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy.

August
 

“Pimp my spec.” NMR spectroscopy is a vital method for describing the atomic structure of biomacromolecules in their native solution state – but this method suffers from low sensitivity. So, how did researchers from the University of Vienna, Austria, go about solving this problem? They used hyperpolarized water in a method dubbed “Dissolution Dynamic Nuclear Polarization” to achieve a 1,000-fold signal amplification in NMR measurements, measuring biomolecules at concentrations as low as 1 micromole/liter.

Bruker launched novel NMR test for molecular phenomics research on “long COVID” patients’ blood samples for multi-organ risk assessment. 

Hard cognitive work leads to glutamate accumulation in the lateral prefrontal cortex, reducing control exerted over decision-making, leading to choices favoring low-effort actions with short-term rewards, magnetic resonance spectroscopy analysis found. Link

September
 

Taking the pressure off ICP monitoring. Existing intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring techniques are precise, but very time-consuming and with a risk of bleeding or infection. There are noninvasive alternatives, but they have significant disadvantages, such as insufficient generalizability, lack of reliability, and low predictive capacity. Enter researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, USA, who designed a new near-infrared spectroscopy device to continuously monitor changes in hemoglobin content.

Researchers used a handheld Raman spectrometer (coupled with machine learning) to differentiate hermaphrodite, male, and female cannabis plants. Results demonstrated that female plants possess higher amounts of carotenoids than male plants – and hermaphrodite plants exhibit lower concentrations of carotenoids relative to both male and female plants.

October
 

Mini spectrometers on the horizon? A group of researchers from Aalto University, Finland, have designed a powerful, ultra-tiny spectrometer that fits on a microchip and operates using artificial intelligence (AI). The study suggested that certain components can be replaced with novel semiconductor materials and AI, allowing spectrometers to be dramatically scaled down in size.

Researchers used NMR spectroscopy to compare metabolomes of green sea turtles in the wild, with the turtles’ blood metabolomes varying depending on habitat. The researchers concluded that metabolomics using NMR spectroscopy is a robust and useful tool in the conservation and management of sea turtle populations.

November
 

Spectroscopy that doesn’t scratch the surface. Researchers from the Positron Lab at the The University of Texas at Arlington, USA, developed a spectroscopic tool based on Auger-mediated positron surface sticking (AMPS) to measure the electronic states of a material’s surface while avoiding signal contaminations from deeper layers. By understanding the behavior of elections in the top layer, which determine a material's conductivity, the researchers believe the findings could be important for building devices.

Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, USA, developed a new method to “see” the fine structure and chemical composition of a human cell at nanoscale resolution. The measurements were taken with null-deflection infrared spectroscopy, which allows for enhanced sensitivity through cantilever resonance and improved signal to noise ratio.

December
 

Ferrate it out. Researchers from the University of Rhode Island, USA, used transient absorption spectroscopy to measure the conversion rate from ferrate to the highly reactive Fe(V) when exposed to visible and UV light, which was about 15 percent – roughly similar to the radical production of ozone purification systems. The team found that a range of light wavelengths, stretching from ultraviolet spectra nearly into the visible, should be able to produce Fe(V). The results could lead to the development of more effective ferrate-based water purification systems, which tend to create fewer toxic byproducts than chemicals like chlorine.

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About the Author
James Strachan

Over the course of my Biomedical Sciences degree it dawned on me that my goal of becoming a scientist didn’t quite mesh with my lack of affinity for lab work. Thinking on my decision to pursue biology rather than English at age 15 – despite an aptitude for the latter – I realized that science writing was a way to combine what I loved with what I was good at.

From there I set out to gather as much freelancing experience as I could, spending 2 years developing scientific content for International Innovation, before completing an MSc in Science Communication. After gaining invaluable experience in supporting the communications efforts of CERN and IN-PART, I joined Texere – where I am focused on producing consistently engaging, cutting-edge and innovative content for our specialist audiences around the world.

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