Laser-induced breakdown spectroscpopy (LIBS)

Swerim has internationally recognized research in LIBS (laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy) and works with development to improve and implement LIBS on-line in industrial applications. LIBS is an optical measurement method with unique properties to enable process control based on chemical analysis. The analysis is fast, contact-free and can simultaneously analyze all elements in the periodic table ‒ on all shapes and types of materials ‒ in all aggregation states!

  • Sorting machine
  • Different type of materials
  • LIBS slagg

From the left: 1. Identification in scrap sorting.  2. Different type of materials. 3. Slag for chemical analysis which enables process control.

What is LIBS?

Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is a laser-based measurement method for rapid chemical analysis of materials. The measurement mainly provides information about the elemental composition, but some molecular information can also be obtained. It is e.g. possible to translate the signal to the content of oxides and make both quantitative and qualitative analysis. LIBS is a method for surface analysis, but by analyzing each laser pulse (shot-to-shot), depth information can also be obtained, and surfaces can be mapped systematically.

Movie on field trials

Movie on field trials.

LIBS in detail

A laser with high energy and short pulses heats up and evaporates –ablates, a small amount of the material (a few ng) and induces an energy-rich plasma. That plasma emits light with wavelengths specific to each element where each element in the periodic table has a characteristic spectrum. The light is collected in a spectrometer, where the wavelengths are divided and converted into an electrical signal that can be read by a computer.

Schematic figure of LIBS.

Schematic figure of LIBS.

Possibilities with LIBS

Through funding from Vinnova, EU (RFCS, Horizon, EIT Rawmaterials), Energimyndigheten, Formas, Strategic competence funds, etc., we carry out collaborative projects together with industry and other research institutes. The possibilities are several.

There are several advantages of LIBS: an equipment can be flexibly adapted based on the needs, can be used on-line, the measurement is contactless, the material can be in all aggregation states and does not need sample preparation or smooth surface, the analysis can be done quickly and as quantification of content or classification and it is possible to follow the process remotely.

The challenge with LIBS is to design the optics so that there are stable signals. The resulting spectra are a combination of many complex processes in the plasma and each new application requires a carefully designed method for data evaluation.

With the help of expert competence and experience of LIBS, we can both gain and provide completely new insights about the studied process!

Developed LIBS equipment with on-line measurement on mesa in the industry.

Developed LIBS equipment with on-line measurement on mesa in the industry.

One of the benefits of LIBS is that it can be used remote.

One of the benefits of LIBS is that it can be used remote.

Examples of projects

Further is some examples of projects and solutions we have conducted together with companies and stakeholders: