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What is Raman Spectroscopy?

Raman spectroscopy is a powerful tool for determining chemical species. As with other spectroscopic techniques, Raman spectroscopy detects certain interactions of light with matter. In particular, this technique exploits the existence of Stokes and Anti-Stokes scattering to examine molecular structure. When radiation in the near infrared (NIR) or visible range interacts with a molecule, several types of scattering can occur.

Jablonski Diagram

What does Raman Spectroscopy Measure?

Raman activity depends on the polarizability of a bond. This is a measure of the deformability of a bond in an electric field. This factor essentially depends on how easy it is for the electrons in the bond to be displaced, inducing a temporary dipole. When there is a large concentration of loosely held electrons in a bond, the polarizability is also large, and the group or molecule will have an intense Raman signal. Because of this, Raman is typically more sensitive to the molecular framework of a molecule rather than a specific functional group as in IR. This should not be confused with the polarity of a molecule, which is a measure of the separation of electric charge within a molecule. Polar molecules often have very weak Raman signals due to the fact that electronegative atoms hold electrons so closely.

Raman spectroscopy can provide information about both inorganic and organic chemical species. Many electron atoms, such as metals in coordination compounds, tend to have many loosely bound electrons, and therefore tend to be Raman active. Raman can provide information on the metal ligand bond, leading to knowledge of the composition, structure, and stability of these complexes. This can be particularly useful in metal compounds that have low vibrational absorption frequencies in the IR. Raman is also very useful for determining functional groups and fingerprints of organic molecules. Often, Raman vibrations are highly characteristic to a specific molecule, due to vibrations of a molecule as a whole, not in localized groups. The groups that do appear in Raman spectra have vibrations that are largely localized within the group, and often have multiple bonds involved.

Which are the most typical Raman applications?

  • Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics
  • Geology and Mineralogy
  • Carbon Materials
  • Semiconductors
  • Life Sciences
  • Microplastics