The influence of laser irradiance and wavelength on the analysis of gold and silver in ore and surrogate samples with laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) was evaluated. Gold-doped mineral samples (surrogates) and ore samples containing naturally-occurring gold and silver were analyzed with LIBS using 1064 and 355 nm laser wavelengths at irradiances from 0.36 × 109 to 19.9 × 109 W/cm2 and 0.97 × 109 to 4.3 × 109 W/cm2, respectively. The LIBS net, background and signal-to-background signals were analyzed. For all irradiances, wavelengths, samples and analytes the calibration curves behaved linearly for concentrations from 1 to 9 μg/g gold (surrogate samples) and 0.7 to 47.0 μg/g silver (ore samples). However, it was not possible to prepare calibration curves for gold-bearing ore samples (at any concentration) nor for gold-doped surrogate samples with gold concentrations below 1 μg/g. Calibration curve parameters for gold-doped surrogate samples were statistically invariant at 1064 and 355 nm. Contrary, the Ag-ore analyte showed higher emission intensity at 1064 nm, but the signal-to-background normalization reduced the effect of laser wavelength of silver calibration plots. The gold-doped calibration curve metrics improved at higher laser irradiance, but that did not translate into lower limits of detection. While coefficients of determination (R2) and limits of detection did not vary significantly with laser wavelength, the LIBS repeatability at 355 nm improved up to a 50% with respect to that at 1064 nm. Plasma diagnostics by the Boltzmann and Stark broadening methods showed that the plasma temperature and electron density did not follow a specific trend as the wavelength changed for the delay and gate times used. This research presents supporting evidence that the LIBS discrete sampling features combined with the discrete and random distribution of gold in minerals hinder gold analysis by LIBS in ore samples; however, the use of higher laser irradiances at 1064 nm increased the probability of sampling and detecting naturally-occurring gold.
- Gold and silver ores
- Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics