IR spectroscopy is an analyti-cal technique that allows arapid, non-destructive determi-nation of a sample’s properties. It isused in various industries for identify-ing compounds and chemical structureswhich can then be accurately related tothe nutritional, chemical and physicalproperties of the material.
How does it work?
Traditional ‘wet chemistry’ facilitates agreater level of understanding about themake-up of different materials. However, this technique requires heavy investment of timeand money.Organic molecules absorb infrared radia- tion at an energy that is characteristic of their composition. Every chemical compoundis characterised by one of six types of molecular vibration; symmetrical stretching,asymmetrical stretching, scissoring, rocking,wagging or twisting. Each of these types of vibration absorbs light energy at a differentfrequency.NIR spectroscopy measures the absorp- tion of light energy shone at a material inorder to produce a spectra. The resultingspectra can then be compared to other spectra of known materials to identify it.In practice, a sample of material is placedon the reading pane of an NIR spectrometer,which will then take the measurement andproduce a spectra file.NIR analysis is very quick and simple,meaning that individuals operating the equip-ment do not need any special qualifications.Another benefit to NIR analysis is that there are no hazardous chemicals involved,allowing analysis to be carried out at vari-ous stages of production. And since NIR isnon-destructive, it is perfect for use in plantbreeding and raw material quality controlsince the sample can be used again.
Analysis of chemical compounds has rap-idly evolved over the last century, but thereare still many parameters measured whichare not true compounds. For example, crudefibre is the material which remains after the action of acid and alkali on a sample of feed. There is no such compound in nature. Whereas reference chemistry on such com-pounds is not reliable, alternative techniquessuch as NIR remain pure.Scanning a sample using NIR will only produce a spectra file. This then needs to becompared to a database of other spectra filesof known substances in order to correctly determine the components in the material.Calibration databases are expensive to createin terms of both time and financial invest-ment. Thus, a market in which the licensing of spectra databases for reference purposes hasdeveloped.Licensing a set of calibrations cuts out the need for massive financial investmentand eliminates any time delay in obtainingresults since the predicted data is imme-diately available. Once an NIR machine isset up with calibrations, the technique for carrying out analysis is relatively simple and thus can be carried out by any member of staff, not necessarily a highly skilled techni-cian. The results of NIR analysis are availableinstantly, allowing important decisions aboutquality control to be taken immediately.The future of NIR capability will allow fur- ther flexibility for analysis.
Who uses NIR?
Sample analysis can be carried out in thefollowing three ways. Firstly, by an agreedstandard method such as protein analysis(Dumas or kjeldahl). Secondly, by empiricalmethods such as those employed for oil or crude fibre analysis. Finally, there are subjec- tive methods based on experience such as taste or smell, but these subjective methodsare not an accurate measure for quality con- trol purposes. Traditionally, quality control iscarried out through wet chemistry analysis,but since this method is slow and expensive,alternatives such as NIR spectroscopy havebeen sought out.NIR can be used across a wide range of industries. Animal feed and ingredients, flour and milling, wet and dried forage, animal pro- teins, pet food, aqua feed and plant breedingcompanies all utilise NIR analysis.
NIR in the pet food industry
NIR is a proven technique used by petfood manufacturers for the rapid, on-sitemulti-component analysis of raw materialsand pet foods. Samples of pet food requirelittle or no preparation, making NIR a quick,clean and chemical-free way of analysingfor key quality parameters such as protein,oil, fibre, ash, moisture and even starchgelatinisation.An NIR system is ideal for rapid analysisand it lowers the cost of achieving quality because it allows increased testing frequency at no extra cost. Analysis using NIR technol-ogy is employed by 90 percent of UK-basedpet food manufacturers.As part of the Premier Pet Nutritioncomplete pet nutrition package, pet foodand raw material NIR calibration factorsare provided. The NIR calibration factorshelp pet food brands to constantly improvestandards for product quality, conformity,assurance and safety.The impact NIR can have on a pet foodmanufacturers business is illustrated by oneof Premier Nutrition’s clients who saved
100,000 in one year by using NIR as part of a complete pet nutrition package.
by Chris Piotrowski, Director, Aunir, UK
Companies are faced withincreasing levels of costs associatedwith quality control
. Using nearinfrared (NIR) spectroscopy as aquality control method can helpreduce such costs. But what isNIR, how does it work in practice,and most importantly, how docompanies employ NIR to helptheir quality control processes?
fd milliG tcholoG14 | may - June 2012