The Benefits of LIBS Analyzers for Third-Party Testing Houses

As representatives from Hitachi meet with new and existing customers to present its product range, one challenge is brought up again and again, which is that most people are not aware of LIBS analyzers.


This has happened enough times for it to be clear that there is a common lack of awareness of LIBS and where it can be beneficial. In response, this article presents an introduction to LIBS for the testing houses that want to know more, and offers answers to some frequently asked questions.

What is a LIBS Analyzer?

Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy is what LIBS stands for LIBS analyzers generate a small yet powerful laser beam onto the sample’s surface to be verified. The beam produces a small, localized plasma from the sample’s molecules.

The elements in the sample project a characteristic wavelength which is identified by the instrument as the plasma cools. The analyzer’s software processes this data and the material’s grade is displayed on the screen, for example, SS 316.

Why Haven’t We Heard of it Before?

As a comparably new technology, LIBS has only recently emerged into popular commercial use.

The laser diode (providing the laser beam) is at the center of the analyzer. Laser diodes of this size have only recently been optimized to accurately generate beams that are strong enough for the method to be successful using a handheld device.

Recommended by the API (American Petroleum Institute) for the material verification of alloy piping, handheld LIBS is now a recognized and approved procedure.

What Can We Test with it?

LIBS is perfect for the general identification and sorting of metals.

It will provide the precise identification of nickel alloys, aluminum alloys, low alloy steels, stainless steels, and much more. A thorough grade library is supplied with the device as standard, but this can also be added to and/or simply adjusted.

How Practical is it to Take on Site?

In this section, Hitachi High-Tech’s range of Vulcan LIBS analyzers will be described. The Vulcan is a handheld analyzer that is around the same shape and size as a cordless drill, weighing only 1.5 kg.

The device will be operational over a full working day at a customer site as it is battery powered and the rechargeable battery lasts from 8 to 10 hours. To perform the test, simply position the front of the analyzer against a clean metal surface and pull the trigger. The sample can even be held in the user’s hand.

The measurement is performed in only one second, so it is simple to complete a high amount of testing in a short period of time.

A report of the investigated materials can simply be generated from the device itself, with all the analyses being date and time stamped on a template with company information.

What are the Compliance Requirements?

As LIBS analyzers do not involve X-rays, there are no regulations applicable to the use of them in the majority of countries. As there is not as much paperwork to deal with and no requirement for radiation safety training, there are no expensive compliance costs.

A pair of protective glasses are included with every Vulcan purchase which are recommended to be worn due to the device using a Class 3B laser. In particular countries, it is mandatory to wear safety goggles.

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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