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Safety Considerations for Sample Analysis Using a Near-Infrared (785 nm) Raman Laser Source

Volume 57, Number 5 (May 2003) Page 580-587

Harvey, S.D.; Peters, T.J.; Wright, B.W.

Raman spectroscopy is often considered a nondestructive analytical technique; however, this is not always the case. The 300-mW 785-nm near-infrared (NIR) laser source used with many commercially available instruments has sufficient power to burn samples. This destructive potential is of special concern if the sample is irreplaceable (e.g., fine art, forensic evidence, or for in vivo medical diagnostics) or a hazardous energetic material (explosive or pyrophoric samples). This study quantifies the heat resulting from illuminating an extensive color array with a 785-nm NIR laser and relates these values to the hazards associated with Raman analysis. In general, darker colors were found to be more problematic. Since visible colors are not ideally correlated with absorptive characteristics at 785 nm, predictions based on thermography are not perfect; however, this approximation gives a useful method for predicting the thermal response of unknown samples to NIR exposure. Additionally, experimental studies evaluated the analysis of flammable organic solvents, propellants, military explosives, mixtures containing military explosives, shock-sensitive explosives, and gunpowders (i.e., smokeless, black, and Pyrodex powders). Safety guidelines for analysis are presented.