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Detection of Metals in the Environment Using a Portable Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy Instrument

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A portable instrument, based on laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), has been developed for the detection of metal contaminants on surfaces. The instrument has a weight of 14.6 kg, fits completely into a small suitcase (46 x 33 x 24 em), and operates from 115 V ac. The instrument consists of a sampling probe connected to the main analysis unit by electrical and optical cabling. The hand-held probe contains a small laser to generate laser sparks on a surface and a fiber-optic cable to collect the spark light. The collected light is spectrally resolved and detected with the use of a compact spectrograph/CCD detector system. The instrument has been evaluated for the analysis of metals in the environment: Ba, Be, Pb, and Sr in soils; Pb in paint; and Be and Pb particles collected on filters. Detection limits in ppm for metals in soils were 265 (Ba), 9.3 (Be), 298 (Pb), and 42 (Sr). The detection limit for Pb in paint was 0.8% (8000 ppm), corresponding to 0.052 mg/cm2. The higher limit obtained for Pb in paint is attributed to the use of the 220.35-nm Pb(II) line instead of the stronger 405.78-nm Pb(I) line used for soils. Spectral interferences prevented use of the 405.78-nm line to determine Pb in paint. The surface detection limit for Be particles on filters was dependent on particle size and ranged from 21 to 63 ng/cm2. The detection limit for Pb particles on filters was 5.6 μg/cm2.

Keywords: Laser spark; Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy; Metals analysis; Soils

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Chemical Science and Technology Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545; current address: Logicon RDA, Systems Technology Operation, 2600 Yale Blvd. S.E., P.O. Box 9377, Albuquerque, NM 87119-9377 2: Chemical Science and Technology Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545

Publication date: February 1, 1996

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