LIBS can above SEM

 A Comparative Perspective

The characterization of various materials has long relied on sophisticated analytical techniques, and among these, Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) have emerged as prominent methods. While SEM has been a stalwart in the field, offering high-resolution imaging and elemental analysis through associated detectors like EDS (Energy-dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy), LIBS presents several competitive advantages, particularly in the domain of chemical analysis, speed, and cost-effectiveness.

10× lower investment, 50× higher capacity, 100× lower running costs!

Chemical Analysis Capabilities

LIBS excels in providing a rapid chemical analysis of samples. Unlike SEM, which requires a vacuum environment and can be constrained by the need for conductive coatings on samples, LIBS can analyse samples in situ, without the need for a special preparation process. This is especially beneficial for volatile elements that may be lost during SEM’s preparation. Furthermore, LIBS can detect light elements such as lithium, hydrogen, and carbon with greater sensitivity, which could be essential for comprehensive investigations. Our frequent reader already knows that LIBS is far better choice for quick identification of boron presence in glass or ceramic samples. These are just few of many examples.

Speed of Analysis

In terms of analysis speed, LIBS is unrivalled. SEM, while detailed, is inherently slower due to the meticulous scanning process. LIBS, on the other hand, delivers results almost instantaneously. The laser pulse used in LIBS ablates a negligible area of the sample and instantaneously generates a plasma, whose spectral emissions are analysed in real-time. This rapidity allows a higher throughput of samples and makes LIBS an ideal tool for time-sensitive projects or on-field analysis where immediate results are paramount. LIBS speed is especially crucial in the spatial resolution while performing chemical mapping. It can cover fast cm2 of the sample surface in contrast with SEM´s ability to map only square micrometers of surface in a matter of hours. This was particularly useful in our Hydrogen-Energy project we informed you about.


When it comes to costs, LIBS offers a more economical alternative to SEM. The initial investment for SEM equipment and the need for a controlled environment is significant. The operational costs, including maintenance add to the expense. LIBS systems are much less expensive to purchase and maintain. They also require less energy and fewer consumables, which translates to lower running costs. Additionally, the ability of LIBS to perform without the sample preparation minimize the cost per analysis.

In conclusion, while SEM provides high-resolution images and is invaluable for morphological studies, LIBS’s superior chemical analysis capabilities, rapid assessment speed, and cost-effectiveness make it an indispensable tool in modern material studies in every Lab. It is an analytical technique that offers significant benefits for a variety of sectors, from industrial manufacturing to environmental monitoring, and from archaeology to biomedicine. Its capability to rapidly identify the chemical composition of materials without exhaustive preparation processes positions Sci-Trace and M-Trace as instruments of choice for researchers and industries that require efficient and dynamic analysis capabilities. On Top AtomTrace is willing to customize both lab and portable instruments and also design and tailor-make in-line analyser for your specific needs.

So do not hesitate any further and equip your lab with one or more devices from AtomTrace.


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AtomTrace a.s.

Vědecko-technický park profesora Lista
Kolejní 9, Brno 612 00
Czech Republic

Identification number: 03396916
VAT: CZ03396916



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