Spectroscopy for a better world

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Can spectroscopy help make the world a better place? Benno Oderkerk, cofounder and CEO of Avantes, located in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, is convinced it can.

“At Avantes, we supply innovative measurement equipment such as spectrometers in the photonics segment. These devices are being used to monitor critical things like air quality and our health. With these types of applications, we feel like we can make the world a safer and healthier place to live in.”

Medical sector

One application spectroscopy can be used for in the medical field, is so-called critical care analyses. Multiple OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) customers use our spectrometers to create devices for medical professionals. They use these devices when a quick reading via a non-invasive procedure is needed, for instance scanning through the skin to measure certain blood values. These companies come to use our instruments as they present clearly visible information in a spectral range that, amongst other things, covers the oxygenation of blood.

We plan to further assist innovation in the biomedical field by designing equipment that is able to measure all kinds of critical parameters. This equipment is useful in cases of premature birth outside of the hospital, for example. In that case, it is vital to the baby’s health to perform a blood analysis during the ambulance ride to the hospital to save critical time. Situations like these call for spectrometers that are incorporated into blood measurement devices. Since these devices need to be used at locations outside of the hospital, the spectrometers inside of them should be small enough to make them portable and easy to use, yet still provide fast and accurate measurements. The development of these small, high-performance spectrometers is something Avantes is proud of doing. These features are the core of our product line and a focal point in our product development.

Environmental sector

Spectroscopy can be used in environmental applications as well. We contribute to the development of Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems (CEMS) which are used by customers in the environmental sector to measure emission in for instance cities and at power plants. In China, regulations regarding emissions are quite strict, so every power plant has to prove their emissions are below a certain value. These measurements are done using our instruments, since they are perfect for these types of applications. Pollution has become an important topic, with global warming being one of the biggest issues we are facing right now. We hope our spectrometers can make a difference in the monitoring and measuring of emission all over the world.

Providing solutions for precision farming is also something spectroscopy can be used for. We assist farmers in monitoring their fertilizer by equipping their tractors with spectrometers. These spectrometers map the fields and measure chlorophyll values in the soil. These measurements can provide an indication on whether the right kind and amount of fertilizer and/or water is used. Another application in precision farming is using spectroscopy to measure the nutritional value of the crops that are being harvested. These measurements can help reduce food waste and allow farmers to not only get paid by kilo, but by kilojoule as well.

Additionally, spectrometers are often used to measure the efficiency of solar panels. Using spectrometers, the amount of energy solar panels convert into electrical energy can be observed. With this data, you can actually calculate the efficiency of solar panels.

These are just a few examples of what spectroscopy can accomplish in the environmental sector. Environmental applications, like solar panels and emission monitoring are what we call Clean Tech. Agriculture related applications are called Green Tech.

Product innovation

We noticed that, with the recent increase in use of diode lasers, VCSELs and material analyses using LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy), the demand for spectroscopic high resolution measurements is higher than ever. To answer this demand, we developed our latest product: the AvaSpec-ULS4096CL-EVO, the ideal tool to perform these measurements.

The new AvaSpec-ULS4096CL-EVO spectrometer uses the latest CMOS technology and offers a fast microprocessor, improved memory, USB3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet communication to significantly increase speed, storage and convenience. Different slits, gratings and other options are available to further increase the convenience of the AvaSpec-ULS4096CL-EVO for different applications.

Future

At Avantes, we see a future in which spectroscopy has become the standard for different measurements that are being done in the field, like the examples mentioned above. With this prospect in mind, we think there is a need for faster measurements and miniature devices. Our challenge is to make these in a semi-automated, or even a fully automated manufacturing process in the future. We are striving to have the capability to decrease production time without an increase in production employees. Finding qualified personnel is a huge challenge by itself. We need to take the step into automatization so we will be able to make miniature spectrometers of the highest possible quality. That is how we see the future.

This article is brought to you by: 
Benno Oderkerk, CEO of Avantes

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