Raman Spectroscopy identifies chemical content of hidden materials

- Siva Umapathy, Inorganic and Physical Chemistry




Professor Umapathy’s group in the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry has developed a new non-invasive technique to identify dangerous and hazardous chemicals hidden inside any containers;  this technique, in addition, can also be used as a medical diagnostic tool for detection of tumors.


This novel technique is based on Raman spectroscopy - Universal Multiple Angle Raman Spectroscopy (UMARS) and relies on illuminating the sample with the light source, which provides scattered light, offering molecular specific signatures to identify the chemical substance, according to a research paper published in the leading Nature Scientific Reports journal on 16 June 2014.1 


The UMARS technique employs the principle of deep penetration of photons and diffusion inside the material employing multiple scattering and detection of signals from all the observable angles. UMARS is a geometry independent, flexible, robust, non-invasive technique having potential to be used in various fields of science spanning from materials to biology as well as space exploration.


Professor Siva Umapathy and his student Sanchita Sil who is now at the High Energy Materials Research Laboratory, Pune point out that this method can be used for obtaining signals from samples which are concealed or packed inside containers such as commercial plastic bottles, thick papers, envelopes, coloured glass bottles, etc. Raman spectroscopy, originally discovered by Sir C Raman who won the Nobel Prize 1930, has developed considerably because of innovations in lasers and associated technologies. This technique has been traditionally used for chemical identification of materials from the scattered light due to interaction of laser light with the sample.


Professor Umapathy, believes that with suitable modifications this technique can be employed not only for detection of explosives but also for medical diagnostics and for quality assessment in pharmaceutical and food industry. The laboratory based prototype is ready and is in progress for miniaturization of the UMARS instrument. In the next phase the scientists envisage to have different designs for specific applications.


The group has already filed two patents for this new technique. Ms. Sil has won a national award called the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award (GYNTIA 2014) under the Technology-Edge category for the innovation at IIM, Ahmedabad.


1 - http://www.nature.com/srep/2014/140616/srep05308/full/srep05308.html

Recent news paper reports:


2 - http://www.bangaloremirror.com/bangalore/cover-story/A-made-in-Bangalore-quantum-leap-From-C-V-Raman-to-IIScians/articleshow/36674002.cms


Additional Information

The technique can be applied in the following scenarios:


1.   Airport Screening: The method can be used to detect and identify explosives packed in non-metallic containers, liquids in bottles such as water, milk, creams, emulsions, alcohol or other chemicals which is not possible with the X-ray baggage screening methods currently in use. This comes as a serious limitation as the passengers are not permitted to carry liquids beyond a certain amount.

2.    Railway Station: Similar to the airport, a portable system can be installed at the railway station for explosive detection of small packets, liquids concealed in bottles etc.

3.    At check-points: One of the highlights of this technique is that it provides molecule specific signatures which are a key to identify not only explosives but also other contraband items such as drugs which have very specific chemical signatures. Hence, this technique can be an ideal tool for detection and identification of explosives, drugs and other similar materials at the check-points.

4.    A portable easy to operate table-top setup can be provided to police, border security forces, army personnel for the detection of any ceased suspected packet containing the contraband items.

5.    This technique can also be used for post blast detection of residues as it can clearly discriminate between the interfering matrices and explosives.

For more details you can contact:

Prof Siva Umapathy                                        
J C Bose Fellow Professor   
Dept. of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry,
Indian Institute of Science,
Bangalore - 560012, India

Webpage: http://ipc.iisc.ernet.in/~umalab/
Phone: 91-80-22932595/23601234
Fax:  91-80-23601552 / 23600803
Email:  umapathy@ipc.iisc.ernet.in,  umapathy_india@yahoo.com