Unveiling the Challenges in Elemental Imaging: Understanding Plasma Behavior at Matrix Boundaries


Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) has emerged as a potent tool for elemental mapping, drawing attention for its capabilities in sample analysis. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectroscopy sheds light on the challenges encountered when probing heterogeneous samples with varied matrices using LIBS techniques (1).

Blue glowing plasma ball lightning abstract background | Image Credit: © sakkmesterke - stock.adobe.com

Blue glowing plasma ball lightning abstract background | Image Credit: © sakkmesterke - stock.adobe.com

The study explored the intricacies of plasma behavior using advanced imaging and interferometric techniques. Employing a fusion of three-dimensional plasma imaging, spectroscopy, and Mach–Zehnder interferometry, the researchers probed the effects of varying collection optic angles at the boundary of different matrices (1).

The findings revealed that a relationship exists between collection optic angles and elemental distribution within the plasma plumes. The study underscored the non-uniform distribution of elements when the collection optics were manipulated in relation to the boundary line, revealing the inhomogeneous nature of plasma during elemental imaging (1).

Moreover, the investigation pinpointed the significance of precise alignment of collection optics, highlighting the potential errors that could arise from misalignments (1). For certain elements under different collection angles, especially copper (Cu) and tin (Sn), the team observed fluctuations in signal intensity. This observation emphasizes the importance of optical alignment for accurate measurements (1).

The analysis via Mach–Zehnder interferometry displayed no substantial alterations in the average electron density or the size and shape of plasma, despite observed changes in elemental distribution with varying collection angles (1). This revelation serves as a key insight into the morphology and behavior of plasma at matrix boundaries, urging researchers to consider these factors while mapping heterogeneous structures using LIBS (1).

This study not only unravels the complex behavior of plasma generated at matrix boundaries, but it also underscores critical factors to prevent misinterpretation of elemental maps (1). The researchers believe that their work helps build a foundation for refining LIBS techniques to conduct elemental imaging of heterogeneous structures (1).

This article was written with the help of artificial intelligence and has been edited to ensure accuracy and clarity. You can read more about our policy for using AI here.


(1) Mohan, M.; Buday, J.; Prochazka, D.; Gejdos, P.; Porizka, P.; Kaiser, J. Laser-induced plasma on the boundary of two matrices. J. Anal. At. Spectrom. 2023, 38, 2433–2440. DOI: 10.1039/D3JA00135K

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