n-FTIR: Bringing Sensitive, Rapid, and Robust Chemical/optical Analysis to the Nanoscale

Period of Performance: 02/21/2017 - 11/20/2017


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Anasys Instruments Corporation
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) is one of the most widely used techniques for chemical analysis, representing a market size of over $1B. Infrared spectroscopy is also fast, sensitive, affordable and easy to use, but suffers from a fundamental limit on spatial resolution on the scale of one to many micrometers. A very large number of modern materials and devices have nanometer scale structures critical to enabling breakthrough performance, but these structures smaller than the spatial resolution limit of conventional FTIR microscopes. As such there is a major unmet need in the ability to characterize nanostructured materials and devices. Atomic force microscope based infrared spectroscopy instruments have demonstrated spatial resolution >100X better than the best FTIR microscopes, but current instruments have limited sensitivity, are slow, high cost and require specialized expertise to operate. This project will develop “n-FTIR,” an atomic force microscope based instrument that will have nanometer level spatial resolution, but with performance like conventional FTIR, i.e. extremely sensitive, fast, affordable, and simple to operate. The objectives of this Phase I project are to develop and demonstrate key technologies required to provide dramatic improvements in sensitivity, measurement speed, cost and ease of use versus the current state of nanoscale infrared spectroscopy. Major tasks are related to researching techniques for increasing measurement sensitivity, reducing noise sources, increasing speed and lowering the costs of key system components, and developing/testing algorithms for automated alignment and optimization of the instruments. Phase I activities will focus on demonstrating feasibility of various technical approaches that will then be leveraged and integrated into a commercial prototype in Phase II. Commercialization Applications and Other Benefits: The key benefits of this project is that it will extend the full power of FTIR chemical analysis to the nanometer length scale, thus addressing critical applications of nanostructured materials in diverse areas ranging polymers, photonics, semiconductors, 2D materials, energy generation and storage, biomedical research, pharmaceuticals and basic science. Investment from this SBIR project will also dramatically reduce both the end user price and expertise required to operate and take advantage of nanoscale infrared spectroscopy. These efforts will make nanoscale infrared spectroscopy much more accessible to broader spectrum of end users. Improvements in sensitivity and measurement speed will enable much richer chemical analysis that will lead to acceleration of development and understanding of nanostructured materials.