Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS): fast, effective and agile leading edge analytical technology

J. Laserna, J. M. Vadillo, and P. Purohit, Applied Spectroscopy, 2018, 72 (S1), 35 – 50.


Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is currently considered one of the most active research areas in the field of analytical spectroscopy. Over the years, scientists and engineers have focused on the development of LIBS as atool for chemical measurements, with significant efforts in developing new devices, methods, and data processing algo- rithms to improve the analytical performance of LIBS. In combination with tailored excitation methods using multi- pulse, multiwavelength laser systems, substantial improve-ments in detection power, representativeness, accuracy, and sampling throughput have been achieved. Development of LIBS instruments with extended capabilities for energy delivery to the sample using ultrashort laser pulses has been undertaken, which has permitted a better understanding of the underlying issues of LIBS; notably, laser interaction with matter, plasma dynamics, and properties. As a result, LIBS has emerged as a powerful alternative for chemical analysis in a wide front of applications, from geological exploration to industrial inspection, from environmental monitoring to biomedical and forensic analysis, from cultural heritage to homeland security. While LIBS certainly has practical utility in many laboratory-based chemical measurements, the true potential of this technology becomes apparent when it is used for applications inaccessible to more conventional analytical techniques. Inspection of the elemental composition of distant objects and LIBS analysis underwater solids constitute examples of the exclusive capabilities of LIBS. Since detailed account of plasma fundamentals, instruments, methods and applications of LIBS can be found in the extensive literature on the topic, this viewpoint focuses on the key features that contributed to the influential, problem-solving character of LIBS. We take the perspective of our own work in the field and discuss current achievements in standoff LIBS methods, underwater solids inspection, and single nanoparticle analysis. We then introduce the strategies used for improving the detection power of LIBS and discuss the use of LIBS in combination with other spectroscopic tools. Finally, we identify challenges that merit further attention, by underlining some possible ways to solve the most common impediments for advancement of LIBS towards an enabling analytical technology.

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