Overview of Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy

Traditionally, mobile metal analysis has been performed by either portable optical emission spectroscopy (OES) or handheld x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers.  However, another technology is now provided as a new option to consider for portable testing interests – offering the benefits of one second measurements, no radiation source, and a virtually non-destructive approach.  This newest metal analysis option is Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS).

How LIBS Technology Works
LIBS is an atomic emission technique whereby the instrument’s laser—commonly a neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (ND:YAG) laser—fires a series of nanosecond-long pulses through a small focusing lens onto the sample. The focused beam ablates a tiny amount of the sample’s surface and subsequently ionizes the removed material to create a plasma. The plasma expands as it is bombarded by the laser and excites electrons in the plasma’s constituent atoms. As electrons relax and atoms return to a stable state, they emit photons that are characteristic of the element and electron transitions. The spectrometer uses a scanning monochromator (e.g., Czerny-Turner), a prism, or grating to disperse light. A photomultiplier or charge-coupled device (CCD) detector array collects emitted radiation over a defined wavelength range, typically between 170-1100 nm.

LIBS technology schematic

Desktop LIBS has been available since the 1960’s but recent component developments have made it possible to offer portability along with all of its other benefits in metals testing.  The two major advancements leading to portability are that a laser source of a practice size is now available and the development of a mobile power source in the form of a non-explosive lithium iron phosphate (LiFeP) battery.

Three Major Benefits
The revolutionary mPulse analyzer offers a number of benefits to scrap metal recyclers and for incoming metal verification.  The top three benefits include the single second measurements making it a true ‘metal sorting’ system, the fact that it does not have a radiation source (XRF has an x-ray tube) so it limits the requirements of owners, and that it is extremely easy to use…it’s truly point, shoot, move to the next sample.

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