Non-destructive subsurface detection of encapsulated, coated, or seal-packaged foods and pharmaceuticals can help prevent distribution and consumption of counterfeit or hazardous products. This study used a Spatially Offset Raman Spectroscopy (SORS) method to detect and identify urea, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen powders contained within one or more (up to eight) layers of gelatin capsules to demonstrate subsurface chemical detection and identification. A 785-nm point-scan Raman spectroscopy system was used to acquire spatially offset Raman spectra for an offset range of 0 to 10 mm from the surfaces of 24 encapsulated samples, using a step size of 0.1 mm to obtain 101 spectral measurements per sample. As the offset distance was increased, the spectral contribution from the subsurface powder gradually outweighed that of the surface capsule layers, allowing for detection of the encapsulated powders. Containing mixed contributions from the powder and capsule, the SORS spectra for each sample were resolved into pure component spectra using self-modeling mixture analysis (SMA) and the corresponding components were identified using spectral information divergence values. As demonstrated here for detecting chemicals contained inside thick capsule layers, this SORS measurement technique coupled with SMA has the potential to be a reliable non-destructive method for subsurface inspection and authentication of foods, health supplements, and pharmaceutical products that are prepared or packaged with semi-transparent materials.
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