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Institute of Electronic Structure & Laser (IESL)
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  Title Novel laser spectroscopy analytical instrumentation for fast elemental analysis of solid materials
  Group Laser & Applications Division, IESL
  Researcher Dr. Demetrios Anglos
  Abstract A greek research institute has developed novel laser spectroscopy analytical instrumentation featuring fast qualitative and semi-quantitative analysis of solid materials in a few seconds. The technology comes in two versions, a compact bench-top laboratory instrument and a fully portable unit. Applications are mainly in the field of cultural heritage. Analytical equipment manufacturers and cultural heritage organisations are sought for license/manufacturing agreement or technical collaboration.
  Description Among various analytical techniques, elemental analysis methods have been used extensively in the study of archaeological objects and art works. Their capability to provide reliable information, leading to the discrimination of different materials/objects on the basis of their different composition in major, minor or trace elements (as, for example, in the case of analysis of metal alloys) can support any process where a trustworthy inspection of findings, components or products is needed.

Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) features elemental information obtained by spectrally analysing the plasma formed following ablation of a solid surface with a pulsed laser source. Characteristic peaks in the emission spectrum lead to the determination of the elements contained in the minute amount of material ablated, reflecting the local elemental composition of the sample. The peak intensity can, in principle, be associated with the density of each emitting species and this, in turn, associated with the concentration of specific elements in the ablated material.

Following systematic research at one of the major Greek research institutes, this technology has been adapted to archaeology and art conservation applications. In the case of art objects LIBS can be applicable in situ and is practically non-destructive. It offers an attractive alternative to other optical spectroscopic, mass spectrometric or X-ray techniques used in art conservation and archaeology-related applications. It provides qualitative and in some cases quantitative compositional information. Obviously, the same technology can be easily transferred to other fields of applications such as product quality control, scrap sorting in metal and alloy recycling plants, rapid screening of trace elements in slurries, analysis of geological and biological matrices, ore and mineral analysis etc.

In the frame of cultural heritage materials analysis applications two LIBS instruments have been developed by the research group. The main driving force has been the need to offer high-quality analytical capabilities on site, namely in the museum or at the archaeological excavation site, given that art objects and archaeological findings are subject to very strict mobility limitations.

Two LIBS instruments are currently available, a compact mobile, bench-top laboratory instrument and a fully portable unit (see images). Both systems are fully computer-controlled and run on specially developed software that manages instrument operation and data analysis.

The bench-top laboratory instrument (version 1) features high quality analytical performance offering high spectral resolution and time-resolved capabilities that enable flexibility in capturing accurate spectral information from the plasma emission that is used to extract both qualitative and quantitative analysis results. Quantitative analysis requires the use of proper calibration standards.

The fully portable unit (version 2) weighs no more that 9 kgs, fits in a compact case and is easily transported by one person. A sensitive, compact spectrometer permits qualitative and semi-quantitative analysis. The system features a compact hand-held probe that can be positioned close to any surface for carrying out a measurement.

The absence of sampling and sample preparation, in combination with the fact that a single laser pulse measurement is complete in less than a second, highly increases the speed of the technique, which is also available on site. The total analysis requires only optical contact with the object. Material consumption in a typical LIBS examination is minimal (estimated around 20-200 ng for a typical crater 1-10 μm deep and 100 μm wide) so that any damage to the sample surface is almost invisible to the naked eye. The spatial resolution achieved by LIBS across a surface is nearly microscopic. In addition, the technique has the capability of providing depth-profiling information if spectra from successive laser pulses are recorded individually. It employs no ionising radiation so it can be used everywhere without the need for special environment-protecting preparations.
  Current development phase A fully portable prototype is available which is currently used for analysis of museum objects and archaeological findings.
  Intellectual property rights: Secret know-how
  Type of collaboration sought License Agreement, Technical Co-operation, Manufacturing Agreement

- Type of partner sought:
Enterprises, organisations, institutes.

- Specific area of activity of the partner:
Analytical equipment/instrumentation manufacturer, cultural heritage organisations or academic institutes, museum diagnostics and conservation departments, recycling plants active in recycling of metals or metal-containing items.

- Task to be performed:
Analytical equipment/instrumentation manufacturers and cultural heritage organisations for licensing the technology. Academic institutions and museum relevant departments for joint further development. Cultural heritage organisations and museum relevant departments for the adaptation and/or implementation of the technology to their currently used processes. Recycling plants active in recycling of metals or metal-containing items for investigating new applications.