To LIBS or not to LIBS? That is the question. When analyzing material from ISO16232 cleanliness testing, users normally don’t care whether Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is a noun, adjective or verb; they just want to know whether the large metallic particle is normal machining debris, or something more insidious, such as a bearing failure, hydraulic fitting failure, or a completely foreign object. Users know that they need to “LIBS the object” in question to acquire the elemental analysis needed to move to the next step of the manufacturing process.
Although LIBS technology has been around since at least the 1960’s, it’s application did not garner mainstream understanding until, most notably, NASA’s Mars “Curiosity” Rover implemented the technology with its ChemCam in 2012. Since that mission, the technology has been implemented into all kinds of products with varying degrees of power, sensitivity, and resolution.
For all of it’s applications, LIBS has not been integrated into a microscope, until now. The Leica LIBS system focuses a columnated Nitrogen laser (337nm) to a 15 micron spot on the material. The laser then near-instantaneously heats the material to melting point, which converts it to a plasma. The energy from this process elevates electrons to a higher energy state and, upon return to the electrons’ resting state, release photons. The released photons travel through the microscope optics to a prism where they are spectrally detected within seconds.
The visible light spectrum created from the rapidly cooling plasma is unique to pure elements and/or alloys. In principle, the Leica LIBS system is able to produce a spectral fingerprint for the material – which can be referenced back to a known material from a user-created database.
Until recently, materials laboratories completed elemental analysis exclusively on scanning electron microscopes (SEM) with Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (EDS). This technology has the advantage of being able to quantitatively analyze a particle’s chemical makeup. However, what SEM provides in quantitative analysis, it lacks in speed. On most SEM systems, scans that include elemental analysis can take minutes to hours – which can be a serious problem in a time-sensitive production environment.
Leica LIBS is different from SEM because if the user can see a metallic material, she can click a button to analyze the material – on the spot. No need to transfer the cleanliness filter paper or failed part to an SEM – just center the digital cross hair over the area of interest, click a button, and have an elemental fingerprint within seconds. This allows average users to provide quality managers qualitative information at Ludicrous Speed.
Leica LIBS is not SEM, nor does it replace SEM. Leica LIBS is a unique technology that provides quality managers with decision-making information quickly and easily.
LIBS provides this information with a fingerprint reference from a standard and user-created library assembled from materials that occur within the facility.
You don’t need to stay at a Holiday Inn Express to look really smart when you’re using Leica LIBS. Quality managers, engineers, and executives all look brilliant when they can solve a mechanical problem on the line within minutes. The failing element is the third bearing from the top. You can prove it – so don’t waste time looking anywhere else.
The obvious and only logical next step is that you are labeled a genius by the CEO and promoted to the Board of Directors. Anyone that looks this good must go straight to the top!
Navigating the world of materials analysis doesn’t have to be slow or unnecessarily detailed. Materials engineers need actionable information fast to keep processes running at the quality that their customers expect.
Trust the sales representatives and imaging specialists at W. Nuhsbaum to provide you with the tools and knowledge put the decision making information in your hands – fast.