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Promising News for Reducing Environmental Waste: LIBS in Material Science

Utilizing Lasers in LIBS Material Science, An Exploratory Paper by Quantum Composers

The Challenge

As our nation’s recycled surplus grows, so does the need for increased efficiency

in identifying and sorting the goods to remove contaminants and prepare

the materials for disposal or resale. Research in materials science is exploring

applications for Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) to improve

technology in recycling separation.

Recyclable goods have grown by more than 10x since the 1970s, resulting in

millions of tons of recyclable materials each year sent to 2,000 recycling facilities

around the world. Until recently, most of the recycling was sent to China, but

in 2019, China enacted the National Sword policy which specifically banned 24

types of recycled commodities and lowered the allowable contamination levels

to .05% (previously at 3-5%). The policy caused industry-wide disruption, banned

the import of plastics, and created a backlog of recyclable goods, the majority

of which is now sent to landfills. Consumers helped bear the weight of onshoring

the goods – their costs rose 11% in 2019. As Americans continue to produce 4.5

pounds of waste per day each, and many city and state governments tighten

recycling laws, the pressure is on to reduce the size of the mountain.

LIBS Applications in Research & Industry

LIBS is an atomic-emission spectroscopy technique that enables rapid chemical

analysis of a wide range of materials ranging from metals, semiconductors, glasses,

biological tissues, plastics, soils, thin-paint coating, and electronic materials.

Over the past decade, research and development efforts have yielded significant

advancements in LIBS technology. Three recent emerging applications for LIBS

to improve waste handling include: High-speed sorting, High-grade recycling of refractory waste, and e-waste recovery.

Photonics Solutions

Researchers are increasingly exploring LIBS as an approach to reducing materials waste. Quantum Composers’ 9520 pulse generator was recently used in a LIBS experiment to demonstrate the effective use of pulsed electric discharge in the recycling of metal coated plastics. The industry is also on the search for smaller sized and more economic laser systems. The quantum composers Jewel lasers are designed to meet this need, offering a compact, affordable integrated DPSS ND:YAG laser for easy integration into LIBS systems.

Learn more about interesting LIBS applications in our white paper, Laser Induced Breackdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) in Material Science.

Visit to learn more about our products for LIBS.