Polyurethanes are widely used, from medical devices to electrical materials to consumer goods. These materials have chemical stability issues which impact the mechanical stability. Infrared micro spectroscopy has been used to study polyurethane degradation, but due to experimental limitations, samples examined were no smaller than approximately 15 microns on a side. Because of the complex chemistry of urethanes, chemical examination of the material on a much higher spatial resolution scale would be valuable.
A relatively new technique, Attenuated Total Reflection Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrochemical MicroImaging has been used to examine degraded polyester urethanes. Rather than using a single-element detector, a two dimensional array detector generates thousands of spectra simultaneously. In addition, a germanium prism generates a magnification effect; resulting in a significantly higher spatial resolution. The net output of the analysis is a hypercube of high resolution infrared spectra showing urethane degradation progression on a much smaller spatial scale than was previously possible.