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Why Use Near Infrared (NIR)?

The near infrared (NIR) region, which is invisible to the naked eye, was first detected in the 1800s and gained acceptance in the early 1900s, but was discarded as too broad and too weak to provide specific analytical functions. It wasn’t until the 1990s that research into NIR led to the discovery of its importance in measuring important constituents in food production, building materials, paper manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and biomass, among many other industries.

The ability to detect trace amounts of water, proteins, sugar, oil/fats, nicotine, resin, etc., in a fast, non-destructive, non-invasive way while also penetrating into material far more than other techniques, gives NIR a distinct advantage that saves time and money at many points in the manufacturing production line.

Near Infrared

To break it down a little further, near infrared works by shining a bright light on a given material.

Depending on the intensity of the source, the light is broad-spectrum with wavelengths from 0.75 to 2.5 microns (750 to 2500nm). Optics are used to concentrate the light on specific points. The amount of light that is absorbed and scattered at different frequencies is then measured after it has interacted with the material to output the necessary data.

NIR is capable of estimating the concentration of the following common properties:

Why Does NIR Matter?

Since the 1960s, NIR has increasingly become the measurement method of choice for low-cost, rapid, non-destructive, measurement of various constituents in food, agriculture, paper, packaging, pharmaceuticals, frac sand and other powders and bulk materials. The key to NIR’s success is its accuracy without any preparation of the sample. Most other types of measurement are more expensive or require sample preparation to be accurate and are sensitive to fluoresence. All of these things include components that, despite their best efforts, can negatively impact accuracy.

Operations that can utilize NIR to conduct on-line and real-time measurements are able to spot process problems and/or adjust production parameters to optimize quality and throughput in real-time. In many cases, NIR is one of many sensors that exist on highly automated manufacturing lines that require precise tolerances for quality final product.

Process automation with quality sensors like NIR are critical to driving energy efficiency, product quality and manufacturing throughput. Companies that don’t embrace tools like NIR and other sensors are left behind as competitors increasingly adopt this incredible technology. Combined with an IOT and AI strategy, NIR is an important tool used by manufacturers throughout the world and saves hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost time, labor, and product.

How Does NIR Work?

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