PORTLAND, Ore. — The world's first microelectromechanical system (MEMS) spectrometer on-a-chip was shown today at at Photonics West (San Francisco, February 10-12) by Si-Ware Systems (SWS, Cairo, Egypt with offices in La Canada, Calif.) Instead of transporting materials across sometimes great distances to be analyzed with a normal bench-top spectrometer, Si-Ware's MEMS-powered spectrometer fits in the palm of your hand and thus can be taken to the material to be analyzed.
"Spectrometers are usually bench sized, so your have to take the object to the bench, but now with our MEMS sized you can can take the spectrometer to the object," said executive vice president, worldwide marketing and business development of Si-Ware, Scott Smyser.
Spectrometer on a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) combines all the same functions as bench mounted spectrometers to today.
The MEMS-powered spectrometer is not only smaller than a bench sized units, but is also much lower in cost.
"Typical prices are upwards of $10,000 for a high-quality bench-sized spectrometer, but our MEMS spectrometer is just $2000 for quantities of 1-to-100 and only $500 for 100,000 unit orders," Smyser told us.
For now, Si-Ware is selling he handheld spectrometer as a module containing all necessary components, powered by USB which also displays results on a computer.
The first marketed model is being supplied in a compete module, but Si-Ware's business plan is to adapt the form-factor to the application. For instance, for agricultural applications, instead of taking soil samples, label them by location, then sending them off to a lab. They are working with companies like Dutch Sprouts (Wageningen, The Netherlands) to create a baseball-bat-like form factor that uses near-infrared to do instant analysis of soil samples in the field, then wirelessly transmit them back to the farmer's computer complete with time and location stamps. Dutch Sprouts initiative is called SoilCares.
Si-Ware's complete handheld spectrometer module is sold under the brand name Neospectra and takes the place of a bulky AC-powered bench top device.
Next they are going after other industrial and even consumer applications such as wearable wrist bands that measure blood sugar, oxygenation levels and other medical and sports related parameters.
"We are downsizing the unit further and integrating all the bulky components into an integrated freestanding modules small enough to afford as a wearable," Smyser told us.
Fourier Transform InfraRed (FT-IR) spectrometers work by shining a light on an object then measuring the reflected spectrum, which is unique for each substance present in the sample. The spectrometer measures both the materials present and their relative quantities.
To maximize its applications, NeoSpectra models come in three versions analyzing materials using light in the near-infrared (NIR) range between 1,150nm and 2,500nm wavelength. Since NeoSpectra is based on a MEMS material with fixed-in-place components, it is permanently aligned and is easily reproducible, according to Smyser.
Besides exhibiting at NeoSpectra Photonics West, Si-Ware will also hold a special demonstration called "Spectral Sensing - A New Paradigm in FT-IR Spectroscopy" in Demo Area 2 (Hall D North) on Wednesday February 11th at 4:30PM.
— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times
Correction: (9:47 am PST) Originally we mistated Scott Smyser's job title as chief operating officer of Si-Ware. He is executive vice president, worldwide marketing and business development at Si-Ware.