E20-02: Modern Portable Analytical Spectroscopy

Tuesday, Oct. 6 – Wednesday, Oct. 7; 10:00am – 2:30pm

Dr. Richard Crocombe, Crocombe Spectroscopic Consulting, Winchester, MA
Dr. Pauline Leary, Federal Resources, Stevensville, MD


The number and variety of portable spectrometers has exploded over the past 15 years.  They are now used for many purposes, including quality control and process analyses in industrial environments, for scene-assessment in law enforcement, emergency response and military applications, field geology, cultural heritage, counterfeit detection, etc. 

Hardware and software innovations make it possible to manufacture small, light, easy-to-use systems that perform well, and are ruggedized to meet the needs of the field user.  This course will cover the capabilities of modern portable spectrometers covering elemental spectroscopy (x-ray fluorescence and laser induced breakdown spectroscopy), molecular/optical (infrared and Raman), and mass spec/molecular (ion mobility and gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy).  Advantages, limitations and applications of each method will be detailed.  The course also covers the most recent developments in the field, including the use of smartphones for spectroscopy, very low cost devices marketed directly to the public and the incorporation of spectrometers in consumer products.

All those interested in, using, developing or proposing to purchase portable spectrometers:  Pharmaceutical QA/QC and counterfeit detection; pharmaceutical PAT; process and QA/QC scientists and engineers; counterfeit detection, brand protection; forensic scientists; cultural heritage scientists; law enforcement – narcotics; hazardous materials (HazMat) personnel; safety & security scientists and engineers.


Note: all sections include demonstrations and ‘hands-on’ opportunities

  1. Background and History for Portable Spectrometers
  2. Libraries, Databases and Algorithms
  3. Portable Elemental Analysis: XRF and LIBS
  4. Portable Optical Instruments (Overview and Technologies)
  5. Portable Raman Spectroscopy
  6. Portable Near-Infrared Spectroscopy
  7. Portable Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy
  8. Mass Spectrometry
    a. Ion mobility spectrometry
    b. Gas chromatography – mass spectrometry
    c. High pressure mass spectrometry
  9. The Future: References and Further Reading

Dr. Richard Crocombe graduated from Oxford University (BA, MA, chemistry) and the University of Southampton (PhD, chemistry & spectroscopy) in the UK.  He moved to the US, initially for a postdoctoral fellowship, and then joined Digilab (Bio-Rad) working on laboratory FT-IR.  He held numerous positions at Digilab over the years, but concentrated on product and applications development, including step-scan FT-IR applications and spectroscopic imaging using two-dimensional focalplane array detectors.  About fifteen years ago he changed course to concentrate on miniature, portable and handheld spectroscopic instruments, working at Axsun Technologies (tunable near-infrared lasers), Thermo Fisher Scientific (XRF, Raman, FT-IR, near-infrared), and finally PerkinElmer (portable GC-MS).  In 2017 he left the corporate world to set up his own consulting company, helping to commercialize new miniature spectroscopic technologies.  He is the 2020 President of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy, an SPIE Senior Member (2017), and received the Williams-Wright Award for industrial spectroscopy in 2012.

Dr. Pauline Leary is a a Reachback Chemist for Federal Resources, specializing in training law enforcement and military personnel in the use of portable instruments.  Prior to that she was  a Technical Solutions Engineer for Smiths Detection, Inc., working with military, emergency-response, transportation and critical-infrastructure customers to help them develop solutions to the problems they are experiencing with detecting, identifying and quantifying dangerous substances and other contraband in the field.  Prior to joining Smiths in 2005, Pauline worked as scientist performing physical testing within the R&D division of Purdue Pharma, LP.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marist College, a Master of Science degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.