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Most of the investigations and applications of LIBS use laser sources operating at repetition frequencies in the range of 10–20 Hz, yielding laser pulse energies of typically 50–300 mJ. This is a consequence of the broad commercial availability of Q-switched flashlamp-pumped solid-state lasers. The most important laser type is the Nd:YAG laser with an emission wavelength in the near infrared at 1064 nm. Such lasers are reliable radiation sources for a variety of research topics and industrial applications. The dominant industrial application field is laser material processing, for example marking, drilling, cutting and cleaning. The first industrial applications of LIBS have also been realized on the basis of flashlamp-pumped Nd:YAG lasers [1–4].
The prevailing task for LIBS with repetition frequencies between 10 and 20 Hz is bulk analysis of materials. A few papers deal with spatially resolved measurements [5–8]. A relative motion between the focused laser beam and the sample enables a scanning across the surface. The spectral information gained is linked to the location of irradiation of the laser pulse onto the sample surface. The result is presented, for example, as an element line intensity of the laser-induced plasma versus one or two spatial coordinates. The latter situation yields maps of element-specific intensities of a sample surface. However, a mapping with a step size of 20 μm by scanning of an area of 1 cm2 of a sample requires 250 000 single measurements.
Reinhard Noll, Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik (ILT), Germany,
Volker Sturm, Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik (ILT), Germany,
Michael Stepputat, Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik (ILT), Germany,
Andrew Whitehouse, Applied Photonics Ltd, Skipton, North Yorkshire, UK,
James Young, Applied Photonics Ltd, Skipton, North Yorkshire, UK,
Philip Evans, Applied Photonics Ltd, Skipton, North Yorkshire, UK
The availability of compact and reliable laser sources, sensitive optical detectors, and powerful computers has helped to stimulate significant growth in industrial applications of LIBS during the past decade. This, together with a better understanding of the physical processes involved when intense laser radiation interacts with a material, has helped researchers to exploit the LIBS technique for various industrial applications ranging from process control of materials during manufacturing to rapid sorting of scrap materials during recycling and remote characterization of highly radioactive nuclear waste. LIBS is still regarded as an emerging technology and there remain many technological barriers that must be overcome before widespread industrial use becomes a reality.
This chapter aims to provide the reader with a general overview of industrial applications of LIBS and is not meant to provide an exhaustive review of the field. The scope has been restricted to applications of LIBS in an industrial rather than laboratory environment. Accordingly, the various laboratory-based LIBS instruments that are now available from a number of manufacturers are not discussed here. The chapter has been written in four sections relating to the following general areas of industry: (ⅰ) metals and alloys processing, (ⅱ) scrap sorting and recycling, (ⅲ) nuclear power generation and spent fuel reprocessing, and (ⅳ) miscellaneous industrial applications.
Metals and alloys processing
The continuously increasing requirements for productivity and product quality in the metal producing and processing industries initiate the demand for measuring methods having the potential to analyze the chemical composition of the processed materials at high speed and – if possible – on-line.
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