Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is a technique that works well for a wide range of applications. In this interview,
Dr. Richard R. Hark, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, discusses
his work with LIBS in applications such as forensic science, conflict minerals, and geochemical fingerprinting. Part II of
this interview will focus on Hark's work using LIBS for emergency response to hazardous materials along with an interview
with a first-responder who has been involved in that research.
Early in your career you synthesized a large number of novel ninhydrin analogs as reagents for visualizing latent fingerprints
on porous surfaces. Did that research naturally lead to your interest in laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)?
My background in forensic science did lead directly to my involvement with LIBS. I became familiar with the technique in 2002
and immediately saw the advantages of applying LIBS to the analysis of trace evidence.
TOM FULLUM/GETTY IMAGES
I came to Raman spectroscopy in a more roundabout manner. Since 1999 I have taught a class called "The Chemistry of Art,"
which is an interdisciplinary course that explores the intersection of chemistry with the visual arts. In this laboratory-based
class we learn about artists' materials, issues facing conservation scientists, and many basic chemistry concepts as we explore
the chemistry and history of art media such as paints, dyes, metals, alloys, ceramics, glass, plastics, paper and fibers,
and photographic materials. Because of the desire I had to get involved in research related to cultural heritage objects,
I was able to spend a sabbatical leave at University College London and the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2007–2008. While
there, I was privileged to work on a number of projects involving the analysis of medieval manuscripts and miniatures using
How have you incorporated LIBS into your undergraduate teaching and research efforts?
Our undergraduates have been using the technique in course work and research since I acquired our first LIBS instrument in
2003. LIBS has been a topic in our sophomore analytical chemistry course as well as the subject of upper-level special topics
courses over the past decade. More than 20 undergraduate students have been involved in LIBS research projects over the past
11 years, resulting in numerous conference presentations and several papers. Last fall, Juniata was the site for the first
Laser-induced Breakdown Spectroscopy for Undergraduate Research and Teaching (LIBS-URT) conference. The second LIBS-URT will
be held again at Juniata October 10–11, 2014. Our goal is to promote awareness of the technique among faculty who teach and
do research with undergraduate students.