Depending on the performance, traditional spectrometers sell for $5,000 to as much as $100,000 per instrument. Si-Ware Systems (SWS) says that its MEMS based Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer module enables instrument makers to sell their products at well below the current price levels. There are different levels of performance and capabilities for spectrometers, and instruments for higher spectral ranges are more costly. For example, mid-infrared (MIR) spectrometers tend to need cooled photodetectors which adds significantly to the cost. The performance of Si-Ware’s module is not as good as the lab-grade spectrometers. However, the company says that its module is good enough for many other applications.
Si-Ware’s spectrometer consists of a one square centimeter MEMS chip that contains all of the optical components (see Figure 1, below). The electronics interface is a separate ASIC that is designed and produced by SWS's ASIC solutions division. The additional components of the system are a photodetector, optical fiber, and software. The system is contained in a module that consumes less than 150 mA. The module measures 8 x 6 x 3 cm3 and weighs less than 150 g. Si-Ware claims that all of this is making its product the smallest and lowest power consuming FTIR spectrometer in the world. Si-Ware says that its solution is the whole spectrometer engine.
Figure 1. Schematic diagram of a Michelson interferometer, configured for FTIR (source: Wikipedia).
Si-Ware won the Prism award for its spectrometer at the recently held Photonics West conference in San Francisco. "SWS is proud to receive this award and have its MEMS FTIR spectrometer recognized as a leading new product in the industry," said Dr. Bassam Saadany, Optical MEMS Technology Division Manager at SWS. "This recognition validates that SWS' FTIR spectrometer represents a paradigm shift for spectroscopy and offers the realization of a true portable and handheld spectrometer."
Si-Ware is selling its spectrometer engine module (see Figure 2 below) to equipment makers that take their spectrometer module and integrate it with other hardware and software to create system level solutions. Some of the main spectrometer makers include companies such as Thermo Fisher, Bruker Optics, Agilent, Perkin Elmer, B&W Tek.
Figure 2. Si-Ware's spectrometer engine module (source: Si-Ware).
Si-Ware's spectrometer technology was licensed to Hamamatsu Photonics last year a non-exclusive license. Hamamatsu is now going to market with its own version of the product.
Si-Ware says that the main advantages of its module are size and cost. While there are portable spectrometers available today, they are still large pieces of hardware. Si-Ware's spectrometer engine, on the other hand, can enable a "truly handheld" device that can really enable portable spectroscopy systems. Traditional solutions are more costly because they have discrete optical components and motors.
One of the main drawbacks of Si-Ware's module is that it is not at the level of achieving the performance of the higher end lab-grade spectrometers. However, the company says that it does not look to replace these types of devices. Instead, they are offering a "good-enough" level of performance that can be used in handheld spectroscopy systems.
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