Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is a rapid chemical analysis technology that has been used in laboratories for many years. Latest technological advances have made it possible to shrink LIBS into a handheld version. LIBS is applicable to a wide range of sample matrices that include metals, semiconductors, glasses, biological tissues, insulators, plastics, soils, plants, soils, thin-paint coating, and electronic materials. Most handheld LIBS analysers are used for the fast sorting of alloys in scrapyards, and alloy identification and analysis in various applications within the metal industry.

How Does LIBS Work?

The main physical process that forms the essence of LIBS technology is the formation of a high temperature plasma. During LIBS analysis, a short pulse laser beam is focused onto the sample’s surface, removing a small volume of the sample mass in a process known as Laser Ablation.

During a typical one second measurement, the sample is hit by thousands of pulses to form a highly energetic plasma that contains free electronics, excited atoms and ions. The material is heated up to a temperature exceeding 10,000°C. The temperature is so high that it causes the atoms to break up and form a plasma. Despite these high temperatures, the sample itself does not get hot during the analysis so it can be held safely in your hand during the measurement.

When the laser pulse stops, the plasma starts to cool down and the electrons of the atoms and ions at the excited electronic states cascade down from the outer electron shells. The excess energy released when the electrons move between two energy levels is emitted in the form of element specific light. The emitted light from the plasma is collected through a fibre optic cable and then processed by the spectrometer for LIBS spectral analysis.

Each element in the periodic table is associated with a unique LIBS spectral peak. The chemical composition can be rapidly determined by identifying different peaks for the analysed samples. Often, information on LIBS peak intensities can be used to quantify the concentration of trace and major elements in the sample.

Today’s analytical researchers are applying LIBS effectively for both quantitative and material discriminatory analysis for a wide range of sample matrices. This is possible as a result of the advancements of chemometric software for LIBS data analysis and the greater understanding of laser ablation fundamentals.

What are the Advantages of Using LIBS?

LIBS offers numerous advantages compared to alternative elemental analysis techniques. These include:

  • Extremely Fast – sample measurement within a few seconds
  • Very Versatile – ability to detect any and all chemical elements in a sample with a single pulse
  • Broad Coverage – sensitive in the detection of light elements like Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Nitrogen, and Oxygen that are not easily detected by other analytic methods
  • No Preparation – unlike many other investigative tools, LIBS requires little or no sample preparation making it convenient for field applications and real-time measurement
  • Non Destructive – small sample size per pulse means it is non-destructive on a sample’s surface

Learn More about our Technologies

Antech Solutions harnesses LIBS technology with its state-of-the-art elemental testing devices. We deliver solutions that are fast, reliable and precise. To learn more about our handheld LIBS analysers, click here.