On optical depth profiling using confocal Raman spectroscopy

Freebody, N. A.; Vaughan, A. S.; Macdonald, A. M.
April 2010
Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry;Apr2010, Vol. 396 Issue 8, p2813
Academic Journal
Until 2006 the performance of confocal Raman spectroscopy depth profiling was typically described and modeled through the application of geometrical optics, including refraction at the surface, to explain the degree of resolution and the precise form of the depth profile obtained from transparent and semicrystalline materials. Consequently a range of techniques, physical and analytical, was suggested to avoid the errors thus encountered in order to improve the practice of Raman spectroscopy, if not the understanding of the underlying mechanisms. These approaches were completely unsuccessful in accounting for the precise form of the depth profile, the fact that spectra obtained from laminated samples always contain characteristic peaks from all materials present both well above and below the focal point and that spectra can be obtained when focused some 40 μm above the sample surface. This paper provides further evidence that the physical processes underlying Raman spectroscopy are better modeled and explained through the concept of an extended illuminated volume contributing to the final Raman spectrum and modeled through a photon scattering approach rather than a point focus ray optics approach. The power of this numerical model lies in its ability to incorporate, simultaneously, the effects of degree of refraction at the surface (whether using a dry or oil objective lens), the degree of attenuation due to scatter by the bulk of the material, the Raman scattering efficiency of the material, and surface roughness effects. Through this we are now able to explain why even removing surface aberration and refraction effects through the use of oil immersion objective lenses cannot reliably ensure that the material sampled is only that at or close to the point of focus of the laser. Furthermore we show that the precise form of the depth profile is affected by the degree of flatness of the surface of the sample. Perhaps surprisingly, we show that the degree of flatness of the material surface is, in fact, more important than obtaining a precise refractive index match between the immersion oil and the material when seeking a high-quality depth profile or Raman spectrum from within a transparent or semicrystalline material, contrary to accepted norms that samples for interrogation by Raman spectroscopy require little preparation.


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