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Techniques & Tools Food, Beverage & Agriculture, Sensors, Spectroscopy, Mass Spectrometry, Technology

Old Methods, New Tricks


The NeoSpectra Micro is a chip-sized near infrared (NIR) spectral sensor, designed for ‘on site’ analysis. Measuring 18mm x18mm, and only 4mm thick, it is small enough to fit into existing mobile devices – potentially making it just as accessible to consumers as it is to industry.


The sensor was designed to test food safety and pharmaceutical purity but can also tackle the composition of environmental matrices, such as soil and water, according to the product’s website (1). And its ability to offer analysis in minutes could be of significant interest to those charged with monitoring agricultural and pharma processes. It could also empower consumers to carry out their own food and drink analysis; for example, it has recently been combined with an iPhone app to detect caffeine levels in coffee (2).


The chip utilizes NIR spectroscopy to analyze 1150–2500 nm – the highest yet for a spectrometer of its size, according to the company press release (2).

It comprises:

  • MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) chip: monolithic Michelson interferometer
  • Photodetector: single element uncooled InGaAs Photodetector
  • ASICs (application specific integrated circuits): for system control and data processing
  • Sample interface: configuration of a light source for sample illumination, and a glass lid for free-space light collection

The microspectrometer was designed by Si-Ware systems; the spectral analysis algorithms were designed by GreenTropism.

What next?

As well as promising speedy analysis in food, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals, the NeoSpectra Micro could have further potential in healthcare – the sensor’s size allows it to be integrated into wearable devices for biochemical monitoring. Will it live up to the hype? Watch this space.

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About the Author
Joanna Cummings

A former library manager and storyteller, I have wanted to write for magazines since I was six years old, when I used to make my own out of foolscap paper and sellotape and distribute them to my family. Since getting my MSc in Publishing, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and content creator for both digital and print, writing on subjects such as fashion, food, tourism, photography – and the history of Roman toilets. Now I can be found working on The Analytical Scientist, finding the ‘human angle’ to cutting-edge science stories.

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