It is difficult to imagine an aspect of our lives where light does not play an essential role. Novel technologies have enabled us to harness, manipulate, and channel this energy toward transforming healthcare and science, as well as the economy, communications, and how we interact with the environment. We are closer to each other than we’ve ever been before; we communicate more easily, travel more widely, and know more of the world in part due to light-based technology. And in celebration of the many ways light has transformed our lives, on December 20, 2013, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies.
Spectrophotometers improve the safety of countless items
Spectrophotometers are an example of one such light-based technology that is being celebrated this year. Spectrophotometers quantitatively measure the amount of light of a specific wavelength that is absorbed or transmitted. These instruments do so by using a lamp to provide a source of light that undergoes diffraction grating, separating the light into its component wavelengths. The grating is then rotated, thus enabling specific wavelengths to interact with the sample. A detector or photometer, then measures the absorbance or transmittance of the sample.
Based on the shape of the material’s absorption profile, this technique can be used to identify the presence of certain compounds, be they beneficial additives or chemical contaminants by observing changes in the absorbance profile. Visible wavelength spectrophotometers detect light absorbed in the visible spectrum and can be used to determine the color profile of a sample; however, UV and IR spectra can also be used to characterize the concentration of compounds within samples.
Here at HunterLab, our spectrophotometers are used by a variety of companies in the chemical, food, pharmaceutical, plastic, and textile industries. For example, our spectrophotometers are popularly used to carefully quantify the color of food items. Because the visualization of color using our spectrophotometers provides a close approximation to what the human eye or a consumer would see, industry specialists favor our instruments for product color quality control and color measurement. Similarly, companies in the pharmaceutical industry often use our spectrophotometers to quickly identify organic compounds, monitor highly controlled and necessarily specific reactions, and ensure the maintenance of unique colors after the manufacturing process.
The future of spectrophotometric technology
In naming 2015 the “Year of Light,” the UN General Assembly did not endeavor to focus on past achievements and milestones. Event organizers instead hope the proclamation serves as a “call to action,” leading to the coordination of international activities that will inspire more people to both appreciate and potentially further develop light-based technologies.
The development of spectrophotometric technology and its novel usage is already having an impact in medicine. For example, a recent study from the University of South Carolina demonstrated that cholesterol could be easily quantified without drawing blood using a spectrophotometric assay. Now imagine a future in which the quantification of other biological molecules, such as insulin or metabolic proteins, can be used to develop rapid, cost-effective means for diagnosing disease. Additionally, near-infrared spectrometry could even replace radiation-based diagnostic tests.
Spectrophotometers in the developing world
Beyond the above-mentioned applications, the event organizers of the International Year of Light are particularly concerned with how light and light-based technologies could be used to promote sustainable development in less privileged parts of the world. Poor health particularly, as it relates to infectious diseases, however, is a significant constraint on development efforts.
In these environments, spectrophotometers could be more widely used to test for infection. For example, malaria is one of the leading causes of death and disease in many developing countries. Especially as malaria drug resistance increases in prevalence and severity, employing spectrophotometric analysis of blood to determine an individual’s infection status could be a powerful way to combat disease sooner rather than later, when individuals are more likely to experience more severe symptoms.
Alternatively, spectrophotometers can also be used to test the purity of water samples in areas without access to clean water, potentially reducing the spread of infectious diseases by providing information on sources of water to avoid. Though clinicians and technicians in the developing world do experience some challenges using current spectrophotometers, many individuals are interested in designing systems that are accurate, durable, and portable. In fact, at HunterLab we have an entire line of portable spectrophotometers, which can be easily used and the purchase of even one such machine could potentially improve health outcomes for millions of individuals.
Determine how HunterLab can help you today
Whatever your background — be it in construction, textiles, paints, food production or sustainable development — please consider how light and in particular HunterLab spectrophotometers can improve the safety, quality and regulatory compliance of your products or work. To learn more about how our products can improve your organization or to speak with a representative, please contact HunterLab today.