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Tag: Analytical

LIBS Focal Point Article

If you work in the field of Laser-induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) or plan to work in future, you have to read the latest focal point article in Applied Spectroscopy by two experts in the field, David Hahn and Nicolo Omenetto from University of Florida. It’s an excellent article (32 pages, 280 references) which reviews various fundamental studies in LIBS until now and questions certain fundamental issues (Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium assumption, spatial homogeneity of the plasma etc) which need to be clearly understood and resolved by the LIBS community in order to make LIBS a well established analytical technique. This is first in series of 2-set focal point articles on LIBS. I am in the process of reading the article and will update my blog once I have finished reading the article. You can access the full article here. It was decided by Society for Applied Spectroscopy during the FACSS 2010 meeting that all the focal point articles in Applied Spectroscopy will be available for free to all the readers. All the focal point articles since 1994 will be soon available on the SAS and ingentaconnect website pretty soon. The abstract of the LIBS article is as follows:

Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), Part I: Review of Basic Diagnostics and Plasma-Particle Interactions: Still-Challenging Issues Within the Analytical Plasma Community

Authors: Hahn, David W.; Omenetto, Nicoló

Source: Applied Spectroscopy, Volume 64, Issue 12, Pages 318A-366A and 1311-1452 (December 2010) , pp. 335A-366A(32)

DOI: 10.1366/000370210793561691

Abstract:

Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) has become a very popular analytical method in the last decade in view of some of its unique features such as applicability to any type of sample, practically no sample preparation, remote sensing capability, and speed of analysis. The technique has a remarkably wide applicability in many fields, and the number of applications is still growing. From an analytical point of view, the quantitative aspects of LIBS may be considered its Achilles’ heel, first due to the complex nature of the laser-sample interaction processes, which depend upon both the laser characteristics and the sample material properties, and second due to the plasma-particle interaction processes, which are space and time dependent. Together, these may cause undesirable matrix effects. Ways of alleviating these problems rely upon the description of the plasma excitation-ionization processes through the use of classical equilibrium relations and therefore on the assumption that the laser-induced plasma is in local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE). Even in this case, the transient nature of the plasma and its spatial inhomogeneity need to be considered and overcome in order to justify the theoretical assumptions made. This first article focuses on the basic diagnostics aspects and presents a review of the past and recent LIBS literature pertinent to this topic. Previous research on non-laser-based plasma literature, and the resulting knowledge, is also emphasized. The aim is, on one hand, to make the readers aware of such knowledge and on the other hand to trigger the interest of the LIBS community, as well as the larger analytical plasma community, in attempting some diagnostic approaches that have not yet been fully exploited in LIBS.
Image Credit: Applied Spectroscopy, Ingenta Connect, Authors of the article

Abstract:

Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) has become a very popular analytical method in the last decade in view of some of its unique features such as applicability to any type of sample, practically no sample preparation, remote sensing capability, and speed of analysis. The technique has a remarkably wide applicability in many fields, and the number of applications is still growing. From an analytical point of view, the quantitative aspects of LIBS may be considered its Achilles’ heel, first due to the complex nature of the laser-sample interaction processes, which depend upon both the laser characteristics and the sample material properties, and second due to the plasma-particle interaction processes, which are space and time dependent. Together, these may cause undesirable matrix effects. Ways of alleviating these problems rely upon the description of the plasma excitation-ionization processes through the use of classical equilibrium relations and therefore on the assumption that the laser-induced plasma is in local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE). Even in this case, the transient nature of the plasma and its spatial inhomogeneity need to be considered and overcome in order to justify the theoretical assumptions made. This first article focuses on the basic diagnostics aspects and presents a review of the past and recent LIBS literature pertinent to this topic. Previous research on non-laser-based plasma literature, and the resulting knowledge, is also emphasized. The aim is, on one hand, to make the readers aware of such knowledge and on the other hand to trigger the interest of the LIBS community, as well as the larger analytical plasma community, in attempting some diagnostic approaches that have not yet been fully exploited in LIBS.

Leave a Comment December 11, 2010

29th Annual AAAR Conference, Portland

I will be traveling to Portland, Oregon all of next week for attending American Association for Aerosol Research Conference. This will be my first time attending this conference and as I am relatively new to the aerosol community, this will be a great opportunity for me to learn some new stuff in aerosol characterization and measurement methods. I will also be presenting my work on elemental characterization of fine and ultra-fine aerosols using Laser-induced Breakdown spectroscopy. If you are interested, here are the abstracts of my oral presentation and poster presentation. (shameless self promotion :))

Leave a Comment October 21, 2010

ICORS 2010

I will be traveling to Boston to attend International Conference on Raman Spectroscopy (ICORS 2010) from 7th Aug to 12th Aug. This is after 14 years ICORS is coming back to US and there are some very interesting talks and sessions in the program. Laser co-inventor and Nobel prize winner, Charles Townes, will be giving a talk on Thursday which unfortunately I wont be able to attend as I have to be back in Cincinnati by Thursday. There is a wide range of topics which will be covered- Raman Spectroscopy for biological systems and biomedical applications, analysis and characterization of Carbon nanotubes and other carbonaceous materials, Semiconductors and nanoparticles, femtosecond and attosecond spectroscopy and much more. Depending on available time, I will be posting some updates about interesting talks from time to time. And ofcourse about Boston as well !! I am excited about it, time to learn some new stuff.

Leave a Comment August 5, 2010

Celebrating 50 Years of Lasers:The First Laser

The first laser

Article By: Charles H. Townes

Excerpt from A Century of Nature: Twenty-One Discoveries that Changed Science and the World: Editors Laura Garwin and Tim Lincoln (Reprinted under fair-use provisions of US copyright law. ©2003 by The University of Chicago Press)

When the first working laser was reported in 1960, it was described as “a solution looking for a problem.” But before long the laser’s distinctive qualities—its ability to generate an intense, very narrow beam of light of a single wavelength—were being harnessed for science, technology and medicine. Today, lasers are everywhere: from research laboratories at the cutting edge of quantum physics to medical clinics, supermarket checkouts and the telephone network.

Theodore Maiman made the first laser operate on 16 May 1960 at the Hughes Research Laboratory in California, by shining a high-power flash lamp on a ruby rod with silver-coated surfaces. He promptly submitted a short report of the work to the journal Physical Review Letters, but the editors turned it down. Some have thought this was because the Physical Review had announced that it was receiving too many papers on masers—the longer-wavelength predecessors of the laser—and had announced that any further papers would be turned down. But Simon Pasternack, who was an editor of Physical Review Letters at the time, has said that he turned down this historic paper because Maiman had just published, in June 1960, an article on the excitation of ruby with light, with an examination of the relaxation times between quantum states, and that the new work seemed to be simply more of the same. Pasternack’s reaction perhaps reflects the limited understanding at the time of the nature of lasers and their significance. Eager to get his work quickly into publication, Maiman then turned to Nature, usually even more selective than Physical Review Letters, where the paper was better received and published on 6 August.

With official publication of Maiman’s first laser under way, the Hughes Research Laboratory made the first public announcement to the news media on 7 July 1960. This created quite a stir, with front-page newspaper discussions of possible death rays, but also some skepticism among scientists, who were not yet able to see the careful and logically complete Nature paper. Another source of doubt came from the fact that Maiman did not report having seen a bright beam of light, which was the expected characteristic of a laser. I myself asked several of the Hughes group whether they had seen a bright beam, which surprisingly they had not. Maiman’s experiment was not set up to allow a simple beam to come out of it, but he analyzed the spectrum of light emitted and found a marked narrowing of the range of frequencies that it contained. This was just what had been predicted by the theoretical paper on optical masers (or lasers) by Art Schawlow and myself, and had been seen in the masers that produced the longer-wavelength microwave radiation. This evidence, presented in figure 2 of Maiman’s Nature paper, was definite proof of laser action. Shortly afterward, both in Maiman’s laboratory at Hughes and in Schawlow’s at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, bright red spots from ruby laser beams hitting the laboratory wall were seen and admired.

Maiman’s laser had several aspects not considered in our theoretical paper, nor discussed by others before the ruby demonstration. First, Maiman used a pulsed light source, lasting only a few milliseconds, to excite (or “pump”) the ruby. The laser thus produced only a short flash of light rather than a continuous wave, but because substantial energy was released during a short time, it provided much more power than had been envisaged in most of the earlier discussions. Before long, a technique known as “Q switching” was introduced at the Hughes Laboratory, shortening the pulse of laser light still further and increasing the instantaneous power to millions of watts and beyond. Lasers now have powers as high as a million billion (10 to power 15) watts! The high intensity of pulsed laser light allowed a wide range of new types of experiment, and launched the now-burgeoning field of nonlinear optics. Nonlinear interactions between light and matter allow the frequency of light to be doubled or tripled, so for example an intense red laser can be used to produce green light.

I had a busy job in Washington at the time when various groups were trying to make the earliest lasers. But I was also supervising graduate students at Columbia University who were trying to make continuously pumped infrared lasers. Shortly after the ruby laser came out I advised them to stop this work and instead capitalize on the power of the new ruby laser to do an experiment on two-photon excitation of atoms. This was one of the early experiments in nonlinear optics, and two-photon excitation is now widely used to study atoms and molecules.

Lasers work by adding energy to atoms or molecules, so that there are more in a high-energy (“excited”) state than in some lower-energy state; this is known as a “population inversion.” When this occurs, light waves passing through the material stimulate more radiation from the excited states than they lose by absorption due to atoms or molecules in the lower state. This “stimulated emission” is the basis of masers (whose name stands for “microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”) and lasers (the same, but for light instead of microwaves).

Before Maiman’s paper, ruby had been widely used for masers, which produce waves at microwave frequencies, and had also been considered for lasers producing infrared or visible light waves. But the second surprising feature of Maiman’s laser, in addition to the pulsed source, was that he was able to empty the lowest-energy (“ground”) state of ruby enough so that stimulated emission could occur from an excited to the ground state. This was unexpected. In fact, Schawlow, who had worked on ruby, had publicly commented that transitions involving the ground state of ruby would not be suitable for lasers because it would be difficult to empty adequately. He recommended a different transition in ruby, which was indeed made to work, but only after Maiman’s success. Maiman, who had been carefully studying the relaxation times of excited states of ruby, came to the conclusion that the ground state might be sufficiently emptied by a flash lamp to provide laser action—and it worked.

The ruby laser was used in many early spectacular experiments. One amusing one, in 1969, sent a light beam to the Moon, where it was reflected back from a retro-reflector placed on the Moon’s surface by astronauts in the U.S. Apollo program. The round-trip travel time of the pulse provided a measurement of the distance to the Moon. Later, ruby laser beams sent out and received by telescopes measured distances to the Moon with a precision of about three centimeters—a great use of the ruby laser’s short pulses.

When the first laser appeared, scientists and engineers were not really prepared for it. Many people said to me—partly as a joke but also as a challenge—that the laser was “a solution looking for a problem.” But by bringing together optics and electronics, lasers opened up vast new fields of science and technology. And many different laser types and applications came along quite soon. At IBM’s research laboratories in Yorktown Heights, New York, Peter Sorokin and Mirek Stevenson demonstrated two lasers that used techniques similar to Maiman’s but with calcium fluoride, instead of ruby, as the lasing substance. Following that—and still in 1960—was the very important helium-neon laser of Ali Javan, William Bennett, and Donald Herriott at Bell Laboratories. This produced continuous radiation at low power but with a very pure frequency and the narrowest possible beam. Then came semiconductor lasers, first made to operate in 1962 by Robert Hall and his associates at the General Electric laboratories in Schenectady, New York. Semiconductor lasers now involve many different materials and forms, can be quite small and inexpensive, and are by far the most common type of laser. They are used, for example, in supermarket bar-code readers, in optical-fiber communications, and in laser pointers.

By now, lasers come in countless varieties. They include the “edible” laser, made as a joke by Schawlow out of flavored gelatin (but not in fact eaten because of the dye that was used to color it), and its companion the “drinkable” laser, made of an alcoholic mixture at Eastman Kodak’s laboratories in Rochester, New York. Natural lasers have now been found in astronomical objects; for example, infrared light is amplified by carbon dioxide in the atmospheres of Mars and Venus, excited by solar radiation, and intense radiation from stars stimulates laser action in hydrogen atoms in circumstellar gas clouds. This raises the question: why weren’t lasers invented long ago, perhaps by 1930 when all the necessary physics was already understood, at least by some people? What other important phenomena are we blindly missing today?

Maiman’s paper is so short, and has so many powerful ramifications, that I believe it might be considered the most important per word of any of the wonderful papers in Nature over the past century. Lasers today produce much higher power densities than were previously possible, more precise measurements of distances, gentle ways of picking up and moving small objects such as individual microorganisms, the lowest temperatures ever achieved, new kinds of electronics and optics, and many billions of dollars worth of new industries. The U.S. National Academy of Engineering has chosen the combination of lasers and fiber optics—which has revolutionized communications—as one of the twenty most important engineering developments of the twentieth century. Personally, I am particularly pleased with lasers as invaluable medical tools (for example, in laser eye surgery), and as scientific instruments—I use them now to make observations in astronomy. And there are already at least ten Nobel Prize winners whose work was made possible by lasers.

There have been great and good developments since Ted Maiman, probably a bit desperately, mailed off a short paper on what was then a somewhat obscure subject, hoping to get it published quickly in Nature. Fortunately, Nature’s editors accepted it, and the rest is history.

Copyright notice: Excerpted from pages 107-12 of A Century of Nature: Twenty-One Discoveries that Changed Science and the World edited by Laura Garwin and Tim Lincoln, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2003 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press and of the author.

Leave a Comment May 19, 2010

Synchrotron X-Ray Fluorescence Detects Trace Elements In Archaeopteryx Fossil

In a new study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists have been able detect trace elements present in the 150 million years old Archaeopteryx fossil. Being able to detect such trace amounts of elements in 150 year old fossil is just amazing.  Archaeopteryx are the earliest known birds and these fossils are considered transitional fossils between dinosaurs and birds. Over the years about 11 Archaeopteryx fossils have been found and all of them are characterized with detailed feather impression. Until now these impressions were considered to be just the cast of the bird’s plumage, but this new study shows that it also contains trace elements from the bird’s tissue and bones. Scientists used Synchrotron Rapid Scanning X-Ray Fluorescence (SRS-XRF) technique to illuminate the fossil with high energy X-ray produced by Synchrotron which resulted in Fluorescence emission from the element present in the sample. The advantage of this technique is that it’s non-destructive and provides rapid analysis. The x-ray fluorescence image shown here shows Calcium in red (from the bones and sediments encasing), Zinc in green and Manganese in blue. Besides these elements, presence of Zinc, Sulfur and Copper was also found. An abstract of the present study is as follows:

Archaeopteryx feathers and bone chemistry fully revealed via synchrotron imaging

Abstract

Evolution of flight in maniraptoran dinosaurs is marked by the acquisition of distinct avian characters, such as feathers, as seen in Archaeopteryx from the Solnhofen limestone. These rare fossils were pivotal in confirming the dinosauria-avian lineage. One of the key derived avian characters is the possession of feathers, details of which were remarkably preserved in the Lagerstätte environment. These structures were previously simply assumed to be impressions; however, a detailed chemical analysis has, until now, never been completed on any Archaeopteryx specimen. Here we present chemical imaging via synchrotron rapid scanning X-ray fluorescence (SRS-XRF) of the Thermopolis Archaeopteryx, which shows that portions of the feathers are not impressions but are in fact remnant body fossil structures, maintaining elemental compositions that are completely different from the embedding geological matrix. Our results indicate phosphorous and sulfur retention in soft tissue as well as trace metal (Zn and Cu) retention in bone. Other previously unknown chemical details of Archaeopteryx are also revealed in this study including: bone chemistry, taphonomy (fossilization process), and curation artifacts. SRS-XRF represents a major advancement in the study of the life chemistry and fossilization processes of Archaeopteryx and other extinct organisms because it is now practical to image the chemistry of large specimens rapidly at concentration levels of parts per million. This technique has wider application to the archaeological, forensic, and biological sciences, enabling the mapping of “unseen” compounds critical to understanding biological structures, modes of preservation, and environmental context.

Leave a Comment May 10, 2010

New year resolution for analytical chemists

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/ac8025493

Leave a Comment February 24, 2010


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