The Science of Spectroscopy | Diamond Analysis Performed By FTIR Spectroscopy

In the world of gemology and material science, the quest for precision and accuracy in analyzing diamonds has led to the development of sophisticated techniques, and one such method is Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy. This powerful analytical tool has proven invaluable in unraveling the intricate details of diamond composition, offering gemologists and researchers unprecedented insights into the properties of these precious gemstones.


What is FTIR Spectroscopy?

Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy is a powerful analytical technique used to study the interaction of infrared light with matter. It provides valuable information about the molecular composition, chemical structure, and functional groups of a wide range of materials, including gases, liquids, and solids. FTIR spectroscopy is employed in various scientific disciplines, such as chemistry, biology, physics, and material science, for qualitative and quantitative analysis of substances.

What is FTIR Spectroscopy

Basic Principles

  1. Infrared Radiation:
    • FTIR spectroscopy focuses on the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, typically ranging from 2.5 to 25 micrometers (μm).
    • Infrared radiation corresponds to the energy required to excite molecular vibrations, such as stretching and bending of chemical bonds.
  2. Sample Interaction:
    • When a sample is exposed to infrared radiation, the energy absorbed by the sample leads to changes in the vibrational and rotational states of its molecules.
    • Different functional groups within a molecule absorb infrared radiation at specific frequencies, resulting in characteristic absorption bands.
  3. Interferometry:
    • The core of FTIR spectroscopy lies in interferometry, a technique that measures the interference of two beams of light.
    • In an FTIR spectrometer, the infrared beam is split into two paths: one interacts with the sample, and the other serves as a reference.
  4. Fourier Transform:
    • The two beams are recombined, and their interference pattern, known as an interferogram, is recorded.
    • A mathematical technique called Fourier transform is applied to convert the interferogram from the time domain to the frequency domain.
  5. Infrared Spectrum:
    • The result of the Fourier transform is an infrared spectrum, which represents the intensity of absorbed infrared radiation at different frequencies.
    • Peaks in the spectrum correspond to specific vibrational modes of molecular bonds, providing a unique fingerprint for each substance.


Key Components of an FTIR Spectrometer

  1. Infrared Source:
    • A stable and intense infrared light source, often a thermal source or a specialized source like a globar.
  2. Interferometer:
    • The interferometer is crucial for splitting, modulating, and recombining the infrared light beams. Common types include Michelson interferometers.
  3. Sample Compartment:
    • The area where the sample interacts with the infrared light. Samples can be in the form of liquids, gases, or solids.
  4. Detector:
    • The detector records the intensity of the infrared light after it has interacted with the sample. Common detectors include mercury cadmium telluride (MCT) or deuterated triglycine sulfate (DTGS).
  5. Data System:
    • A computer system processes the interferogram data using Fourier transform algorithms, producing the final infrared spectrum.


Analysis of Diamonds by FT-IR Spectroscopy

Diamonds, with their mesmerizing brilliance and enduring allure, have been a subject of fascination and study for centuries. The quest to understand their composition, origin, and unique characteristics has led to the development of sophisticated analytical techniques. Among these, Fourier-Transform Infrared (FT-IR) Spectroscopy has emerged as a powerful tool for the detailed analysis of diamonds.

Analysis of Diamonds by FT-IR Spectroscopy

The Significance of Diamond Analysis

Diamonds are formed deep within the Earth’s mantle under extreme pressure and temperature conditions. During this process, various impurities and defects can be incorporated into the crystal lattice, influencing the diamond’s properties. Understanding the specific impurities present and their concentrations is crucial for gemologists, as it provides insights into the diamond’s color, transparency, and even its geographic origin.


The Basics of FT-IR Spectroscopy

Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy is a non-destructive analytical technique that measures the interaction of infrared light with a material. In the context of diamonds, it involves exposing the sample to infrared radiation and observing how the material absorbs different wavelengths. The resulting spectrum provides a unique fingerprint of the diamond’s molecular composition.


How FT-IR Analysis Works on Diamonds

  1. Sample Preparation: Diamond samples for FT-IR analysis are typically in the form of microscopic particles or thin sections. The sample’s size and preparation are critical to ensure accurate and representative results.
  2. Instrumentation: A high-quality FT-IR spectrometer is employed, equipped with a powerful infrared light source and a detector. The diamond sample is placed in the path of the infrared beam.
  3. Interaction with Infrared Light: As the infrared light interacts with the diamond, certain chemical bonds within the crystal lattice absorb specific frequencies of light. This absorption is characteristic of the impurities or defects present.
  4. Data Acquisition: The FT-IR spectrometer records the intensity of transmitted light at various wavelengths. The resulting data, known as the infrared spectrum, is then processed to identify absorption bands associated with different chemical entities.


Diamond-Specific Impurities Detected by FT-IR

  1. Nitrogen-Vacancy (NV) Centers: Common in diamonds, NV centers are responsible for the yellow or brown coloration. FT-IR spectroscopy can detect and quantify nitrogen impurities in various forms.
  2. Hydrogen-Related Defects: Hydrogen plays a crucial role in affecting the color of diamonds. FT-IR helps in identifying and quantifying hydrogen-related defects.
  3. Other Trace Impurities: FT-IR can reveal the presence of other impurities, such as boron, which imparts a blue color, or nickel, which may cause a green hue.


Advantages of FT-IR Spectroscopy in Diamond Analysis

  1. Non-Destructive: FT-IR spectroscopy allows for the analysis of diamonds without altering their physical or chemical properties.
  2. High Sensitivity: The technique can detect impurities in extremely low concentrations, providing detailed information about the diamond’s purity.
  3. Quantitative Analysis: FT-IR enables quantitative analysis, allowing researchers to determine the concentration of specific impurities.


How Does FTIR Analysis Work?

FTIR spectroscopy operates on the fundamental principle that different chemical bonds absorb infrared radiation at distinct frequencies. This absorption pattern, known as the infrared spectrum, serves as a unique fingerprint for each material. In the context of diamond analysis, FTIR spectroscopy focuses on identifying the absorption bands associated with specific impurities or defects within the diamond lattice.


The FTIR instrument utilizes interferometry to measure the intensity of infrared radiation passing through a sample. A beam of infrared light is directed onto the diamond specimen, and the transmitted light is then split into two paths. One path travels through the sample, while the other serves as a reference. The two beams are recombined, and the resulting interference pattern is analyzed through a Fourier transform to produce the infrared spectrum.



The marriage of FTIR spectroscopy and diamond analysis has propelled gemological research to new heights, allowing scientists and gemologists to unlock the secrets embedded within these exquisite gemstones. The precision and sensitivity of FTIR spectroscopy offer a deeper understanding of the molecular intricacies of diamonds, shedding light on their formation, provenance, and quality. As technology continues to advance, FTIR spectroscopy stands as a cornerstone in the ongoing quest to explore the mysteries of diamonds and the broader field of materials science.