What is the Difference Between FTIR and Raman Spectroscopy

FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) and Raman Spectroscopy are both techniques used to analyze the molecular composition of substances. Understanding the differences between FTIR and Raman spectroscopy is essential for selecting the most suitable technique for specific analytical needs in various fields such as chemistry, materials science, and biochemistry.

What is the difference between FTIR and Raman spectroscopy? FTIR measures the absorption of infrared light by the sample, whereas Raman Spectroscopy measures the scattering of light by the sample.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is FTIR 
      – Definition, Features, Use
2. What is Raman Spectroscopy
      – Definition, Features, Use
3. Similarities Between FTIR and Raman Spectroscopy
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between FTIR and Raman Spectroscopy
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: FTIR and Raman Spectroscopy
      – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

FTIR, Raman Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy

Difference Between FTIR and Raman Spectroscopy - Comparison Summary

What is FTIR

FTIR stands for Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy, a powerful analytical technique used to identify organic, inorganic, and polymeric materials based on their absorption of infrared radiation. It’s widely used in various fields, including chemistry, pharmaceuticals, materials science, and forensic analysis.

In FTIR, a sample is exposed to infrared radiation, causing its molecular bonds to vibrate. Each type of bond absorbs energy at specific frequencies, resulting in characteristic absorption spectra unique to the sample. The instrument measures the intensity of absorbed radiation at different wavelengths, producing a spectrum that reveals the molecular composition and structure of the sample.


FTIR offers several advantages over conventional infrared spectroscopy techniques. Its high sensitivity allows for the analysis of small sample amounts, while its rapid data acquisition speed enables real-time monitoring of reactions. Additionally, FTIR eliminates the need for cumbersome scanning mechanisms used in older instruments, making it more user-friendly and efficient.

The technique is used in a wide range of applications. In pharmaceuticals, it’s utilized for drug formulation analysis, quality control, and detecting counterfeit drugs. In environmental science, it helps identify pollutants in air and water samples. Moreover, in materials science, it’s invaluable for studying polymers, coatings, and composite materials.

FTIR can also be coupled with other analytical techniques, such as gas chromatography or mass spectrometry, for comprehensive sample analysis. Moreover, advancements in FTIR instrumentation, such as microscopes and imaging systems, have expanded its capabilities to analyze microscopic samples and map chemical distributions in complex matrices.

What is Raman Spectroscopy

Raman spectroscopy is a powerful analytical technique used to study vibrational, rotational, and other low-frequency modes in a system. Named after Indian physicist Sir C.V. Raman, who discovered the phenomenon in 1928, the technique is based on the Raman scattering effect, where light interacts with molecular vibrations, resulting in a shift in energy. This shift provides valuable information about the molecular structure, composition, and environment of a sample.

In Raman spectroscopy, a laser beam is typically directed onto a sample, and the scattered light is collected and analyzed. Most of the scattered light retains the same energy (wavelength) as the incident light (Rayleigh scattering), but a small fraction experiences energy changes due to interactions with the sample’s molecules. These energy changes correspond to the vibrational and rotational energies of the molecules, generating a Raman spectrum.

Raman spectroscopy

The Raman spectrum consists of peaks corresponding to specific vibrational modes within the molecule. Each peak represents a different molecular bond or functional group, allowing researchers to identify and characterize the chemical composition of the sample. Additionally, the intensity of these peaks provides information about the concentration of the molecules.

Raman spectroscopy has numerous applications across various fields, including chemistry, biology, materials science, pharmaceuticals, and forensics. It can be used to analyze solids, liquids, and gases, making it a versatile tool for studying a wide range of samples. Additionally, it can be performed under various conditions, including ambient, high-pressure, and high-temperature environments.

Advancements in technology have led to the development of portable and even microscopic Raman spectrometers, enabling in situ and non-destructive analysis of samples in diverse settings.

Similarities Between FTIR and Raman Spectroscopy

  1. They are analytical techniques used for identifying and characterizing molecular structures in materials.
  2. They provide complementary information about molecular vibrations and rotations, aiding in the identification of functional groups and chemical bonds present in a sample.
  3. Both techniques are non-destructive and useful in analyzing a wide range of sample types, including solids, liquids, and gases.
  4. Both techniques rely on the interaction of light with matter.

Difference Between FTIR and Raman Spectroscopy


  • FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) is an analytical technique used to identify and characterize molecular structures in materials by measuring the absorption of infrared radiation, while Raman spectroscopy is an analytical technique utilized to identify and analyze molecular structures in materials by measuring the scattering of monochromatic light.


  • FTIR spectroscopy measures the absorption of infrared radiation by a sample, while Raman spectroscopy measures the scattering of monochromatic light by a sample.


  • In FTIR spectroscopy, transitions occur due to changes in molecular dipole moments, leading to selection rules based on dipole moment changes. In Raman spectroscopy, transitions occur due to changes in polarizability of the molecule, leading to different selection rules compared to FTIR.

State of Sample

  • FTIR spectroscopy requires the sample to be in direct contact with a suitable IR-transparent material, such as a salt plate or a thin film, while Raman spectroscopy can analyze samples in various states, including solids, liquids and gases, without the need for special sample preparation techniques.


In conclusion, FTIR and Raman spectroscopy are powerful analytical techniques in molecular analysis, each with its own unique principles and advantages. FTIR spectroscopy measures the absorption of infrared radiation, providing valuable insights into molecular composition and structure, while Raman spectroscopy measures the scattering of light, offering information on molecular vibrations and environments. While both techniques rely on the interaction of light with matter, they differ in their sensitivity, sample preparation requirements, and selection rules.

FAQ: FTIR and Raman Spectroscopy

1. Is Raman more sensitive than FTIR?

Raman spectroscopy is typically less sensitive than FTIR due to the inherently weaker Raman scattering process compared to infrared absorption. However, advancements in Raman instrumentation and techniques, such as resonance Raman spectroscopy and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), have significantly improved its sensitivity in recent years.

2. What is FTIR used for?

FTIR is a practical analytical tool used in various fields to analyze the composition of solids, liquids, and gases. It helps identify unknown materials and confirms the materials used in production processes. Industries such as pharmaceuticals, polymers, and materials science rely on FTIR for quality control and research purposes.

3. What is the principle of FTIR?

FTIR spectroscopy detects how infrared light alters molecular dipole moments, revealing characteristic vibrational energy transitions that are specific to molecular structures. By measuring these changes across a range of infrared wavelengths, FTIR provides valuable insights into the chemical composition and structure of a sample.

4. What is the advantage of Raman?

One advantage of Raman spectroscopy is its capability to measure both crystalline and amorphous substances, providing valuable insights into a wide range of materials. Unlike some other analytical techniques that are limited to either crystalline or amorphous materials, Raman spectroscopy offers versatility in analyzing various sample types. 

5. Is Raman spectroscopy a confirmatory test?

Yes, Raman spectroscopy is useful as a confirmatory test, including by law enforcement agencies, for drug identification purposes. Its ability to provide specific molecular fingerprinting enables accurate identification of substances. This makes it a reliable confirmatory technique in various fields such as forensics, pharmaceuticals, and materials science.


1. “Raman Spectroscopy – An Overview.” Science Direct.
2. “FTIR Spectroscopy – An Overview.” Science Direct.

Image Courtesy:

1. “FTIR Interferometer” By Sanchonx (talk) – I, Sanchonx (talk) (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Setup Raman Spectroscopy adapted from Thomas Schmid and Petra Dariz in Heritage 2(2) (2019) 1662-1683” By Toommm – Own work (CC BY 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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