We have developed a rapid, nondestructive analytical method that estimates the thickness of a surface polymer layer with high precision but unknown accuracy using a single attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared (ATR FT-IR) measurement. Because the method is rapid, nondestructive, and requires no sample preparation, it is ideal as a process analytical technique. Prior to implementation, the ATR FT-IR spectrum of the substrate layer pure component and the ATR FT-IR and real refractive index spectra of the surface layer pure component must be known. From these three input spectra a synthetic mid-infrared spectral matrix of surface layers 0 nm to 10 000 nm thick on substrate is created de novo. A minimum statistical distance match between a process sample's ATR FT-IR spectrum and the synthetic spectral matrix provides the thickness of that sample. We show that this method can be used to successfully estimate the thickness of polysulfobetaine surface modification, a hydrated polymeric surface layer covalently bonded onto a polyetherurethane substrate. A database of 1850 sample spectra was examined. Spectrochemical matrix-effect unknowns, such as the nonuniform and molecularly novel polysulfobetaine-polyetherurethane interface, were found to be minimal. A partial least squares regression analysis of the database spectra versus their thicknesses as calculated by the method described yielded an estimate of precision of ±52 nm.
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