Using a Handheld LIBS Analyzer to Identify Aluminum-Lithium Alloys

The advancement of aluminium-lithium alloys has produced a brand-new class of alloy, mixing high strength and high corrosion resistance with an incredibly low weight.

These characteristics are particularly beneficial to the aerospace industry to decrease weight and maximize fuel efficiency. Al-Li alloys are utilized in the fuselage and wings of commercial aircraft. The alloy has also been employed in Formula 1 racing cars and different spacecraft, where high strength and low weight is worth the investment.

Lithium is a light-weight and very reactive element, located in group one of the periodic table. It is frequently used in batteries, but most people will remember the element from their middle school science class when the teacher showed the violent reaction between lithium metal and water.

Here lies the challenge with Al-Li alloys. Although the strength is superior and it is low in density, the highly reactive essence of lithium means that Al-Li alloys must be produced in furnaces that have been specially designed.

If an Al-Li melt is added to a typical furnace, lithium can react with the refractory walls in a destructive fashion. This is not an issue as long as the correct alloy is manufactured in the correct furnace. However, it can cause a challenge when the aluminum is being recycled.

The recycling market for aluminum is popular. It is one of the most recycled materials in the current age and only paper and steel are its competitors. Over half of the aluminum in production currently is from recycled material. This reduces energy use because the recycling process takes up less than a tenth of the total energy needed to create aluminum from bauxite.

With a lot of recycled material around, it is important that foundries and scrap yards find and isolate lithium-containing alloys to stop catastrophic damage to the furnace. This has been a challenge up to now.

Many methods utilized to identify grades of aluminum alloy, for example XRF, cannot detect lithium as it is too lightweight to differentiate from other elements.

The most current handheld laser analyzer from Hitachi High-Tech can locate Li-containing aluminum alloys in just one second.

Introducing the Vulcan Optimum+

The Vulcan range of handheld LIBS (laser induced breakdown spectroscopy) analyzers from Hitachi High-Tech are already known as the category market leaders today and are beginning to displace traditional XRF analyzers.

With the Optimum+ model now included, it is possible to sort all aluminum series, including modern aerospace alloys containing lithium.

Perfect for scrap yards and manufacturing facilities, the Vulcan Optimum+ is handheld, lightweight and fully portable, along with providing a result in one second. As it is a laser analyzer, there are no issues with radiation, and it can be used anywhere.

With just one instrument, it is possible to separate all common wrought aluminum series from 1000 to 8000. The Vulcan can simply differentiate between grades within a series, for example the challenging 6061 / 6063, 3003 / 3004 and 7050 / 7075 aluminum alloy grades.

With the new feature of detecting lithium within aluminum alloys, the Vulcan Optimum+ can fully identify all critical alloying elements, including Li, Si, Mg, Mn, Cu and Zn, giving the customer full peace-of-mind for correct, reliable and efficient aluminum grade identification.

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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