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Effective identification of complex mixtures

Identification of complex chemical mixtures using portable hand-held devices

Implementation of a Raman spectral decomposition technique that allows effective identification of complex mixtures. The computationally and memory-efficient software enables new functionality to be added to portable hand-held devices.


  • Software implemented on hand-held Raman spectrometers for use in Defence, Homeland Security, Life Sciences and Anti-counterfeiting.

Development Status

  • Early-stage laboratory data
IP Status
  • Software package

Commercial Offerings

  • Licensing


Raman spectroscopy is an established method for identifying unknown materials across various sectors. Conventional analysis methods are based on comparing the measured spectrum with a reference spectral library of known chemicals to find the best match. While effective for identifying a single spectrum from a library, a sample composed of a mixture of different chemicals provides a greater challenge.


Edinburgh researchers have developed a Raman spectral decomposition technique based on a new fast sparse approximation method. Inputting a set of reference spectra and an unknown mixture yields the identity of mixture elements and their contribution percentages. It also has the capability of detecting cases where the mixture has a spectrum outside the reference library. The method is highly computationally and memory efficient, which means that it can run on a low power real-time platform. Implemented as a hardware-independent C package, which can handle a given library and input spectrum, the technology enables use with hand-held devices. This provides a portable, non-invasive approach for the identification of real-life mixtures of chemical substances.

A hardware-independent C version of the mixture-matching algorithm has been prepared. Performance has been successfully demonstrated in the identification of real mixtures in different measurement scenarios, including where components are close to noise level.


  • Fast and accurate determination of position > Real-time, reliable monitoring during procedures
  • Uses light from the end of the fibre to determine position -> Precise position of tip known, even when beyond the fibre guide, or where a guide is not in use
  • Imaging of the fibre tip or also along the length is possible through thick/complex tissue structures -> Suitable for use in most endoscopic applications

Please note, the header image is purely illustrative. Source: Forance via Shutterstock

Quote: TEC1104299

License this technology

Dr Angus Stewart-Liddon

Senior Technology Transfer Manager
School of Engineering