THMG104A – SPATIALLY-OFFSET RAMAN WITH COBALT LIGHT SYSTEMS, NOW AGILENT TECHNOLOGIES

In this bonus episode, we chat with Dr. Eric Roy from Cobalt Light Systems, now Agilent Technologies. Eric talks about the spatially-offset Raman technology behind Agilent’s Resolve handheld Raman system and describes how it’s used to identify hazardous materials (like fentanyl) inside sealed opaque packaging.

Complete Show Notes

00:55 Background on Cobalt Light Systems

  • Cobalt makes Raman spectroscopy products that uses what’s used spatially-offset Raman
  • This allows us to scan through opaque containers made from plastic, amber glass, or paper – i.e. 5-gallon buckets, gas cans, poly drums, etc.
  • The Cobalt Resolve is their handheld system that uses spatially-offset Raman technology

2:30 What Sets the Resolve Apart from Other Raman Technologies?

  • Cobalt uses a proprietary variant of Raman spectroscopy (spatially-offset Raman, or SORS)
  • Uses a de-focused beam that spreads energy around – helpful because you don’t want to heat up some substances (focused beams in other meters do this)
  • This moves the laser beam around to collect multiple scans – this makes their scan a little bit longer
  • The first scan scans the container, while the second scan scans what’s inside
  • Uses the contrast between those two measurements to tell you what’s actually inside the container
  • Algorithms in the meter look for any contrasts between those two readings

4:10 Scanning Material Limitations

  • Can’t scan through metal (i.e. a steel drum)
  • Also can’t scan through cinder blocks or most other building materials
  • Also can’t scan through corrugated cardboard
  • Easily scans through everything from small plastic gas cans all the way up to large blue poly 55-gallon barrels

5:30 Who Uses These Meters?

  • This is a new product, so they’re still waiting to see where the markets will go
  • Helpful for facilities that scan packages and for people dealing with illegal substances
  • Also useful for border agencies who scan for smuggled substances
  • Widely used by police departments and hazmat teams – found on a bunch of rigs
  • The military is also very interested in the Resolve system since its design de-focuses heat and won’t blow up explosives
  • Used widely in industry and academia, too – helpful when professors retire and leave a bunch of unidentified substances sitting around in their lab

9:45 Unique Capabilities of the Resolve System

  • Not just for opaque containers – still does point-and-shoot scanning through something clear or a substance in the open
  • System is designed to meter less than 5-10% of a sample, which differentiates it from other units
  • Raman meters are designed to measure liquids and solids, so this can’t measure vapors (like any other Raman)
  • You can meter in both bulk and trace modes, which means you can measure just about any quantity of just about anything
  • Use an 830-nanometer laser to significantly cut down on the fluorescence, which is responsible for lengthy measurement estimates – Resolve shuts off after 2 minutes of scan time
  • As wavelengths increase, the fluorescence is reduced – however, there’s also less sensitivity and you have to use different detectors

15:35 The Resolve’s Compound Library

  • Library contains around 12,000 compounds – chemical weapons, explosives, precursors, narcotics, industrial solvents, benign household chemicals, etc.
  • Resolve adds to the library and sends updates out via software updates – users can also add compounds to their library
  • Cobalt offers a reach back service and technical experts that can look at substances for you and help you determine whether it’s library-worthy

18:55 Limitations of the Resolve System

  • Bigger than some other devices – weighs around 5 lbs. and is the size of a sheet of paper

21:10 Using Resolve with a Dirty Sample or a Mixture

  • Darkness of dirty samples generates fluorescence – because this unit uses a longer wavelength, though, fluorescence is less of an issue
  • Spot size is also important – using a larger spot with a laser that moves around like the Resolve’s gives you a better chance of identifying the compound

25:00 Reach Back and Training on the Resolve

  • Cobalt partners with a top-notch training company to provide comprehensive training on their units
  • They also send someone from their factory to help out, too
  • Training involves setting up scenario lanes and running through them, rather than just instructions on pushing buttons
  • They offer 24/7/365 reach back and can overnight swap-out units to anywhere in the country if something goes wrong
  • You can take a picture and send it to them – this makes it easy for them to quickly identify the problem

28:30 Where to Get the Resolve

  • Sold through Federal Resources
  • Contact them via their website: Cobalt Light Systems
  • You’ll be put in touch with a salesperson who will come out and discuss the product with you
  • Check out the Resolve’s page on the Cobalt site
  • You can also call Cobalt at (703) 251-4865

Have a question? Send an email to feedback@thehazmatguys.com or leave a message on our Haz Mat Guys comment hotline: 843-628-1484

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