Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is used as a method for material analysis. A LIBS system consists of a high power pulsed laser, collection optics and a spectrometer. When the laser is discharged it ablates a very small amount of material, generating a plasma plume. From this plume, the characteristic atomic emission lines of the elements can be used to identify the material. This is particularly useful for on-site inspections, high volume analyses or on-line industrial monitoring. Despite the compelling performance in the laboratory, however, few commercially successful LIBS systems have appeared on the market that can compete with established analytical methods.
RMD’s scientists are researching new instruments to make LIBS more functional, including creating a compact spectrometer for use with robotic systems where space and power are limited. In addition, we have explored the use of tapered fibers to help form sub-micron plasma, allowing inspection of materials on the molecular level. Finally, we have worked to promote LIBS for commercial use such as the on-line screening of coal prior to use in power plants.
Scientists at RMD using LIBS to create a plasma plume to measure the impurities in coal.