Optical Spectroscopy

Applications from the deep sea to outer space

Optical spectroscopy is a proven technique for directly determining ingredients as main parameters in media and measuring their concentration. Hellma products can be used for as diverse applications as the product. Solids, liquids and gases can be measured in the spectral range from UV, Vis, NIR to IR as well as Raman and fluorescence. Applications can be found in numerous industries such as (petro-) chemistry, pharmacy, food and feed, biotech or energy. However, Hellma products go beyond the classical process industry. Even if the requirements exceed the ordinary, solutions from Hellma are a good choice. From the deep sea to outer space - we use our expertise to develop the perfect solution according to your requirements.

Interesting facts about molecular spectroscopy

What is molecular spectroscopy?

The word spectroscopy contains the stem of the word spectrum and refers in this context to the light spectrum. Human understanding of light is that it consists of electromagnetic radiation or waves. Electromagnetic waves are in turn divided into a spectrum according to their wavelength and structured on a scale.

People are familiar with "optical spectroscopy" from nature in the form of a rainbow, which displays a specific spectrum of light to the eye. Tiny raindrops in the air refract the sunlight and make a specific spectrum visible. This becomes possible by the interaction of light with molecules of matter, in this case with water, which then becomes visible to us humans in the 7 colors of the rainbow. The light spectrum, i.e. the wavelengths of light visible to humans, lies between 380 and 780 nanometers. There is also light with wavelengths below and above the range visible to humans.


How can molecular spectroscopy be used?

The interaction of light with molecules of a material, i.e. substances and mixtures of substances, and the type of light emitted by the irradiation can provide clear conclusions about the composition, type and quantity of the medium or substance irradiated with light. In this way, non-contact and non-destructive analysis can be realized, which is the basis for the qualification and quantification of media and substances in analytical chemistry.

What can be measured with spectroscopy?

Essentially all organic molecules can be measured. They can be identified by spectroscopy and their concentration can be determined. A simple example would be the determination of a ripe and unripe tomato through its color. An unripe tomato is green and a ripe one is red - an overripe one may be deep red. In analytical practice, it is not so simple and obvious, and the differences can be minimal and imperceptible to the human eye.

Special measuring devices and instruments known as spectrometers or spectrophotometers, enable a very precise and unambiguous determination of the measured wavelength of the emitted light. Spectroscopy has its limits in the field of trace analysis, as not all variants of molecular spectroscopy can be used. Spectroscopy is unsuitable for metals and inorganic salts.


How can spectroscopy be used to measure?

The irradiation of solids or the transmission of light of a defined wavelength through gases or liquids leads to interactions with the sample, as a result of which part of the excitation light is lost. Depending on the measuring principle, the spectrometer measures the light emitted or transmitted by the sample. The light signals received are unique for each substance and therefore allow conclusions to be drawn about its type and composition. Gases and liquids can be measured with a cuvette, measurement cell or probe, whereby the light penetrates the substance or sample. In the case of solids, the light is reflected at the surface and then captured. This type of measurement of a sample contains a lot of information about the physical and molecular structure of the sample, which is used with statistical evaluation methods to break down the sample composition. Very common and proven measuring ranges, which can be used to identify many media and substances (chemometrics), are in the UV, Vis, NIR and MIR wavelength ranges.

What are the benefits compared to other measurement methods?

• Spectroscopic methods are faster and more efficient than many other analytical methods. Compared to wet chemical analysis, for example, spectroscopy offers a considerable time advantage. The measurement is also non-destructive and can in some cases be carried out at a distance from the analysis medium. Further advantages are:

• no sample preparation

• ideal for heterogeneous material

• no waste, no chemicals

• high sample throughput

• real-time analysis

• usage in explosion-proof areas


Why use spectroscopy?

The benefits of molecular spectroscopy, especially as inline or online measurement, are manifold and usually amortize the investment costs within a fairly short time. The main benefits are as follows:

• improved production efficiency

• effective and fast quality control

• greater output quantity

• higher product quality

• high time savings

• reduced energy consumption

• fewer rejects

• optimized process control

• greater process transparency

• simple analysis of reaction processes

• more process reliability


For which industries is it relevant?

Molecular spectroscopy can be used in many areas and provide benefits across all industries. The main industries that have been using spectroscopy successfully for many years are the following:

• Agrar

• Biotechnology

• Chemicals

• luxury foods

• Plastics

• foodstuffs

• Petrochemistry

• Pharmaceuticals

• Polymers


Is molecular spectroscopy profitable?

Molecular spectroscopy is a measurement technology that has been tried and tested for over 100 years and has been continuously developed and refined since its invention. Depending on the complexity, task and measurement location, very short-term benefits can be achieved. In the field of inline and online measurements of process analytical technology, ROI calculations have been published that show amortization within 6 months to 2 years. Read more on this page and contact us if you are interested: www.hellma.com/en/process-analytical-solutions/return-on-investment-and-best-cases/

Application Reports

Production of Active Ingredients


Application Note


More efficient reaction monitoring through online measurement techniques, even for processes with spectroscopically inactive components


Analysis of Edible Oil


Application Note


Spectroscopic Analysis of Edible Oils and Fats in Food Production


Identification of Liquid Gas


Application Note


Safe Energy for the Future - NIR Inline Analysis of Liquefied Gas on Delivery


Determination of Fruit Content


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Taste Comes First - Spectroscopic Concentration Determination of Fruit Content in Yogurt

Analysis of Food Colorant


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You eat with your eyes - Measuring the color concentration in the production of food colorant



Application Note


Efficient realization of many measuring points with only one spectrometer - Spectroscopic online monitoring of complex manufacturing processes illustrated by the example of polymerization

Measurement of Coffeine


Application Note


Spectroscopic Determination of the Caffeine Content in Dichloromethane After the Extraction of Caffeine in Coffee Beans

Drug Analysis


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Automated Dissolution Testing Using Spectroscopic Online Analysis

Chemical Analytics


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Real-Time Monitoring of Particles Size Dimension and Conversion Ratio During the Production of Expandable Polystyrene

Pharmaceutical Analytics


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Precise Monitoring of the Water Content During Spray Drying of an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient

Chemical Analytics


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Process Optimization and Quality Control Using NIR Online Spectroscopy in the Production of Oleochemical Products

Petrochemical Analysis


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For a safe, clean and efficient passage over the ocean: Particle monitoring of bunker fuel using NIR spectroscopy

Food Analysis


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Concentration Measurement of Ingredients in the Manufacture of Dairy Products and Other Foods

Chemical Analysis


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Near Infrared (NIR) Online Process Control of Highly Saline Solutions during the Production of High Quality Fertilizers

Agricultural and Soil Analysis


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Spectroscopic Analysis of Soil for Pre-Categorization and Quality Determination 


Pharmaceutical Analysis


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Concentration Measurement of Nutrients and Metabolites during the Production of Biopharmaceuticals 

Analysis of Fermentation Processes


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In-line analysis of glucose and ethanol during fermentation with yeast

Fuel and Lubricant Analysis


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Exploitation of Oil Deposits: Spectroscopic Online Process Monitoring for More Efficiency and Yield in Oil Production


Polymere and Plastic Analysis


Application note


Online Process Control During the Production of Polyoxymethylen (POM) using NIR-Spectroscopy

Operations under extreme conditions

Hellma Products in Space

Hellma products head to outer space. In the spring of 2008, a quartz-glass protein-crystallization reactor was deployed to the Columbus European Space Laboratory for the study of protein crystallization under weightlessness. It was brought to the International Space Station (ISS) on the 24th flight of the NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis. The results from these extraterrestrial experiments will help to develop efficient active substances to fight diseases back on earth.

For the most recent spaceflight in October 2018, part of the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury, Hellma Materials optical crystals specialists provided a 3-inch cerium-bromide (CeBr3) scintillation crystal. It works in the gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer and is essential for planetary remote sensing.

The deep sea is an inhospitable place with no light and high pressure. But even in this environment Hellma products can provide a valuable service, for industries such as the oil production at sea. The measurement of water in petroleum effectively supports the quality control and makes it easier to comply with environmental requirements.

Only high-quality products can stand up to these extreme conditions and so the products are often developed especially for this purpose. The expertise gained in these projects continuously enters into the further development of the Hellma product range so that eventually all Hellma customers will benefit from those projects. 

Process Analytical Application Areas

Chemistry Energy Research and Development
Food Industry Life Science Aerospace
Pharmaceutical Photonik Environment


Typical applications for process probes are:

  • Monitoring of the production of plastics, paints, inks and pigments
  • Control of drug release in pharmaceuticals (TDA)
  • Tracking and controlling of reaction progressions
  • Determination of concentration and color
  • Determination of acid number, OH number, dissociation constants and partition coefficients

Products of the brand:


Hellma USA Inc.
120 Terminal Drive
11803 Plainview, NY
United States

Phone: +1 5169 3908 88


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