Recent advances and applications of external Cavity-QCLs towards hyperspectral imaging for standoff detection and real-time spectroscopic sensing of chemicals
External-cavity quantum cascade lasers (EC-QCL) are now established as versatile wavelength-tunable light sources for analytical spectroscopy in the mid-infrared (MIR) spectral range. We report on the realization of rapid broadband spectral tuning with kHz scan rates by combining a QCL chip with a broad gain spectrum and a resonantly driven micro-opto-electro-mechanical (MOEMS) scanner with an integrated diffraction grating in Littrow configuration. The capability for real-time spectroscopic sensing based on MOEMS EC-QCLs is demonstrated by transmission measurements performed on polystyrene reference absorber sheets, as well as on hazardous substances, such as explosives. Furthermore, different applications for the EC-QCL technology in spectroscopic sensing are presented. These include the fields of process analysis with on- or even inline capability and imaging backscattering spectroscopy for contactless identification of solid and liquid contaminations on surfaces. Recent progress in trace detection of explosives and related precursors in relevant environments as well as advances in food quality monitoring by discriminating fresh and mold contaminated peanuts based on their MIR backscattering spectrum is shown.