Concept

# Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy

Summary
Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) is a technique used to obtain an infrared spectrum of absorption or emission of a solid, liquid, or gas. An FTIR spectrometer simultaneously collects high-resolution spectral data over a wide spectral range. This confers a significant advantage over a dispersive spectrometer, which measures intensity over a narrow range of wavelengths at a time. The term Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy originates from the fact that a Fourier transform (a mathematical process) is required to convert the raw data into the actual spectrum. The goal of absorption spectroscopy techniques (FTIR, ultraviolet-visible ("UV-vis") spectroscopy, etc.) is to measure how much light a sample absorbs at each wavelength. The most straightforward way to do this, the "dispersive spectroscopy" technique, is to shine a monochromatic light beam at a sample, measure how much of the light is absorbed, and repeat for each different wavelength. (This is how some UV–vis spectrometers work, for example.) Fourier-transform spectroscopy is a less intuitive way to obtain the same information. Rather than shining a monochromatic beam of light (a beam composed of only a single wavelength) at the sample, this technique shines a beam containing many frequencies of light at once and measures how much of that beam is absorbed by the sample. Next, the beam is modified to contain a different combination of frequencies, giving a second data point. This process is rapidly repeated many times over a short time span. Afterwards, a computer takes all this data and works backward to infer what the absorption is at each wavelength. The beam described above is generated by starting with a broadband light source—one containing the full spectrum of wavelengths to be measured. The light shines into a Michelson interferometer—a certain configuration of mirrors, one of which is moved by a motor. As this mirror moves, each wavelength of light in the beam is periodically blocked, transmitted, blocked, transmitted, by the interferometer, due to wave interference.
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