Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) vs Optical Emission Spectrometer (OES)

Many of the handheld LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) analyzers currently on the market can now test for carbon. While this is an interesting development to many, they do cause problems as a result of their small detection rate for carbon.

OES (Optical Emission Spectrometer) analyzers may be more suited to complicated and serious applications where elements other than carbon need to be detected, such as sulphur, phosphorus, nitrogen, and boron.

In this case, Hitachi High-Tech offers mobile OES analyzers such as the PMI-MASTER Smart which gives the user exceptional performance in complex environments.

How to Choose the Right Analyzer

Handheld LIBS analyzers, for example the Hitachi Vulcan, are mobile, light, and do not require extensive user training. They are perfect for applications such as sorting in scrap metals, and for scheduled inspections in manufacturing industries.

However, it is important to note that LIBS analyzers are not the most accurate tools on the market. For example, the characteristics of carbon steel (such as its hardness, workability, weldability, strength, and melting point) are all impacted by elements underneath 100 ppm. Laser-based analyzers such as LIBS are unable to detect these in an accurate manner.

Although LIBS are marketed as having the ability to detect the characteristics detailed above, there are no assurances that they can be as accurate as OES analyzers.

When considering the importance of accurate results, consider the level of confidence that the business needs to have in the testing results to give to their stakeholders or customers. Would this be 90%, or even up to 100%? If this confidence is misjudged, it can have serious consequences for a business, from an extensive product recall, to damaging the company’s brand reputation, to impacting their customer’s health or livelihood.  

OES technology has existed for many years which is why it is trusted by a wide range of scientists, engineers and QC managers.

Spark optical emission spectrometers are the best at showing the full chemistry of important alloy elements that handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and LIBS analyzers cannot detect when tested at low levels. They can detect carbon, phosphorus, boron, sulphur, arsenic, and tin in low alloys, and nitrogen and stainless steels in duplex steels.

An investment in OES analyzers is an investment in the future of a business’ analysis operations if there is ever a need to detect trace elements such as boron in steel. Boron in alloyed steel is a benefit as it can increase the hardness in steel alloys, making it excellent for construction applications.

However, boron has a limit of 0.0008 ppm to be classed as alloyed steel. If this is inaccurately graded and used to make a car, machine, or building, and this fails, there can be devastating outcomes resulting in court cases or even death.

OES User Experience

An OES analyzer allows the user to continue to enjoy the benefits that come from the instrument being mobile and low in weight. The PMI-MASTER Smart from Hitachi is the only portable analyzer available on the market.

As it weighs only 15 kg, it can be moved wherever there is a need, and it can be taken down a shaft, or up a ladder with ease. The PMI-MASTER Pro2 and the TEST-MASTER Pro are both mobile instruments with probes that are lightweight.

All OES models by Hitachi are created in Germany under intense quality checks and testing. The equipment is made to make sure that the products work well under difficult environments or in more thorough laboratory environments.

The battery pack is rechargeable and gives the user hours of power when disconnected to the mains supply. There are more than 12 million records available of over 340,000 materials on the GRADE database. This makes sure that the user can uphold standards from 69 countries making it a wholly international solution.

There are low costs involved in operating the product which gives the user results within mere seconds. Mobile OES analyzers are therefore a dynamic solution which can meet a range of analysis applications, both now and in the future. Stationary and mobile OES analyzers are the correct selection to accurately detect the chemical composition of a large range of alloys.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.

For more information on this source, please visit Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.

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