What is laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)?

Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is a type of atomic emission spectroscopy that employs a laser to ablate or vaporize a microscopic layer of a sample’s surface. The resultant plasma caused by this laser ablation process emits light as it cools. This light is then collected and analyzed with a spectrometer for quantitative and qualitative material analysis.

This rapid chemical analysis technique offers many advantages compared to other elemental analysis techniques:

  • A sample preparation-free measurement experience
  • Extremely fast measurement time, usually a few seconds, for a single spot analysis
  • Broad elemental coverage, including lighter elements, such as H, Be, Li, C, N, O, Na, and Mg
  • Versatile sampling protocols that include a fast raster of the sample surface and depth profiling
  • Thin-sample analysis without the worry of the substrate interference

LIBS for Material Analysis

This virtually non-destructive spectral analysis method has valuable applications across numerous physical science fields, including identification of defects in glass, distribution of lithium, manganese, nickel, and other elements in lithium-ion batteries, depth analysis of different layers, and brief analysis of the element content in samples.

A typical detection limit of LIBS for heavy metallic elements is in the low-PPM range. LIBS is applicable to a wide range of sample matrices, including metals, semiconductors, glasses, biological tissues, insulators, plastics, soils, plants, soils, thin-paint coating, and electronic materials.

LIBS Analysis Method

LIBS is a type of atomic emission spectroscopy which uses a highly energetic laser pulse as the excitation source. The laser is focused on forming a plasma of the material to be analyzed. Spectral analysis of the plasma emission created yields a fingerprint of the sample’s elemental composition.

LIBS has an exciting analysis method. First, a laser beam is focused on the material’s surface to be analyzed. The temperature reaches 20,000-40,000°C at the focus point. At this point, the material becomes plasma and emits light whose wavelength distribution depends on the material (known as the ‘fingerprint’ of the sample’s elemental composition).

The fiber optics collects the emitted light and enters the spectrometer, which then disperses the light and produces a spectrum according to its wavelength component. The sampled material is analyzed by comparing the sampled scattered light to a given chemical element’s spectrum.

The laser’s typical frequency can generate 300-500 spectra. This enables a complete analysis every three to five minutes, making it a high-speed and reliable analysis method.

For this demanding application, high-speed spectrometers in a multi-channel setup, like the AvaSpec-ULS2048CL-EVO or its smaller version: the AvaSpec-Mini2048CL, for easy integration into your own system. A collimating lens is often used in LIBS setups to overcome the distance between a sample and the fiber optics.

Why choose Avantes for your LIBS application?

  • Multi-channel capabilities for high resolution
  • Excellent timing and triggering
  • Fast and reliable analysis through our spectroscopy software
  • Extensive knowledge on LIBS applications

Contact us

These are some of the products mentioned above. Contact one of our sales engineers for advice to find the perfect setup for your specific application.

Application Examples

Below are detailed application notes on various uses of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy in different applications and industries.