Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is becoming a popular analytical technique, which can potentially measure all elements in the periodic table, in samples of all types (gas, solids, liquids). LIBS is important in applications such as the recycling of scrap metals and alloys where it can be used to quickly identify a large number of items. No other material analysis technique can match the performance of LIBS in this area.
The basic principle is illustrated in the schematic diagram. Each laser pulse hits the surface of the material to be analysed causing a tiny amount of the sample to be ablated. This tiny amount of material is heated up to a high temperature, forming a plasma at the surface of the sample. In the plasma, atoms are energized, forming atomic and ionic species of the present elements - the plasma forms with temperatures of 10,000°C at the sample surface.
After each pulse the plasma cools and characteristic light emissions can be observed as the energised ions return to their original atomic state. The light emissions are collected through a fibre optic cable, and processed by the spectrometer, applying advanced statistical methods to generate reproducible, reliable results for each analysis to give the sample’s elemental composition and alloy grade.