Can LIBS Improve Metal Quality for Manufacturers?
Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is the analytical technique using a high-focused laser to determine the chemical composition of materials. LIBS has been around for many years and is a technique used primarily in laboratory equipment. With recent advances in technology, the technique has now been developed into a portable handheld analyser capable of measuring elements, including carbon, in the field for material identification.
Accurate material identification is vital to the metal fabrication industry, especially when validating Material Test Reports (MTRs) prior to adding value during the fabrication process. Manufacturers use LIBS handheld analysers to calculate carbon equivalency by measuring the contribution of specific elements for steel composition and signifying an equivalent level of hardenability. This is critical for quality control and quality assurance (QA/QC) of incoming materials and outgoing finished goods.
The scrap metal recycling industry also utilises LIBS for fast and accurate sorting of low alloy steel grades, especially for enhanced separation of stainless steel grades based on carbon. This is essential to workflow efficiency and profitability.
The LIBS analysis process
The LIBS technique utilises a high-focused laser that interacts with the surface of a material and forms a plasma in which the material is broken down into single elements. A laser pulse is produced by the analyser and pointed at the sample surface. The surface is ablated and enters the plasma.
The plasma atomises the samples, and the excited atoms emit light as they return to ground state. The emitted light is transferred through fibre optics and enters the spectrometer through a slit. The light interacts with a diffraction grating where it is split into single wavelengths/ colours. The single wavelengths/ colours hit the detector and produce spectral data.
The central processing unit (CPU) analyses the spectral data and determines the concentration of each element present in the sample. Composition data and identified alloy grade are displayed and stored via memory for later recall or download to an external PC.