Little Laser, Big Science
An elemental analysis tool pioneered at Los Alamos is exploring other planets and also improving life on this one.
December 1, 2016
Composite image of Mars’s Mount Sharp, taken by the rover Curiosity, in September of 2015. This is the region where ChemCam, a Los Alamos elemental analyisis tool aboard Curiosity, recently collected samples that helped provide new insights into Mars’s past. CREDIT: NASA
From rocks on Mars to fields on Earth, LIBS is helping scientists do their jobs with improved speed, safety, and precision.
Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is a technique that reveals the presence and concentration of elements in a sample. Pioneered and perfected at Los Alamos, LIBS is virtually non-destructive, portable, adaptable, rapid, remote, and affordable—making it handy for a broad variety of applications. From improving energy- and food-security on Earth to exploring Mars and maybe someday Venus, LIBS is definitely doing big things in science.