LIBS, is a spectroscopy technique in which a short laser pulse beam is focused on a target sample. Laser energy ionizes the sample material by heating it, creating small area of plasma. Excited ions in the plasma state emits light waves which are collected and the spectrum is resolved by a spectrometer and analyzed by suitably calibrated photon or light detector. Each chemical element has a unique wavelength or signature which can be optically resolved from the obtained spectrum. As result, the composition of the elements which constitutes in the target sample can be determined. Below provided some of the general information about the technique :
LIBS is considered one of the most efficient and user friendly analytical techniques for trace elemental analysis in gases, solids, and liquids. Some of its major advantages include:
Compact echelle spectrometers designed for LIBS applications are offered by several manufacturers.
In the rare occasion that an application requires even higher resolution, the Acton Series of spectrometers with their long focal lengths are extremely useful. The latest models use toroid mirrors with improved spectral quality.
For a detector with 1024 horizontal pixels, each of which is 26 m wide, the theoretical field of view is 26.6 mm. But since a standard 25 mm intensifier is used, the field of view is 25 mm.
For example, if you decided to utilize a 2400 groove/mm grating in the Acton Series 2500 in order to enhance resolution, the linear dispersion will be 0.6 nm/mm while the spectral coverage will be 0.6*25 = 15 nm. To cover a spectral range between 300 and 600 nm (for example), you will need to perform at least 20 laser shots each time, moving the spectrometer grating to a new position and "gluing" all 20 spectra together. This is a very standard procedure which can be done painlessly and automatically.
The only disadvantage to this is that acquisition of one spectrum could take up to a few dozen seconds or longer, which is why the echelle spectrometer has become extremely popular, especially in industrial and field applications where real-time measurements such as online quality control is a must.
Typically, the laser pulse in LIBS applications lasts for femto- to nanoseconds (10-15 to 10-9 s). Especially in applications where non-invasive and non-destructive analysis is required, a relatively small amount of laser energy is transferred to the sample. Therefore, one laser pulse produces a weak emission signal which is hard or impossible to collect with conventional CCD detectors. That is why intensified CCDs (ICCDs) are widely used in LIBS.
To improve the emitting signal on the order of 10-30 times, a scheme with two orthogonal lasers beams is often used. In this dual-scheme, the first and usually more powerful laser pulse ablates and atomizes sample material while the second one heats the ablated material even further, allowing it to improve the intensity of atomic or ionic lines. Factors such as the level of laser excitation energy for both pulses and the time delay between the pulses play a crucial role in achieving signal intensity enhancement. This technique increases the sensitivity of LIBS by at least one order of magnitude and allows for a greater possible number of applications.
If measurement time duration is not an issue, a regular CCD, (1024x1024 pixels, 13 µm pixel size), can be used together with the an spectrometer for LIBS applications. To obtain the reasonable light level required for a non-intensified CCD, long exposure time measurements should be performed. In this case, plasma emission signal is accumulated on the CCD from a multiple laser pulse. However, one should be careful about excessive accumulation of background noise and low signal-to-noise ratio. It is especially important when performing measurements in the open air without an enclosed sample chamber. Since the CCD stays open for a long period of time, all sources of stray light in the room should be eliminated and measurements should be conducted in darkness. CCD usually proves a more sophisticated system than the ICCD because intensified CCDs are prone to permanent damage by excessive light levels. Extra care should be taken so as not to expose ICCDs to the bright sources of light like laser reflections. In the case of a regular CCD, it is difficult to damage with excessive light.
III. General Applications
The fact that LIBS generally requires little-to-no sample preparation, simple instrumentation, and can easily be performed on-the-field in hazardous industrial environments in real-time, it is a very attractive analytical tool. The following are a few examples of real life applications, where LIBS is successfully used: