Quantification of gold and silver in minerals by laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy

Daniel Díaz, David W. Hahn, Alejandro Molina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The performance of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) to identify and quantify gold and silver in ore samples was evaluated. Ores from a gold-producing mine and samples artificially doped with Au and Ag solutions to previously defined concentrations (surrogates) were prepared as 50-mm pellets prior to LIBS analysis. Silver detection and intensity measurement was straightforward for concentrations from 0.4 to 43 μg/g and from 1.1 to 375 μg/g in ore and surrogate samples, respectively. Au emission lines were not found after ensemble average or accumulation of 100-single shot LIBS spectra of ore samples containing up to 9.5 μg/g Au. However, the Au signal was present in the spectra of surrogate samples, for which a detection limit of about 0.8 μg/g was determined. When the number of sampling shots in ore samples increased, various single shot spectra registered Au emission lines. The number of spectra containing Au emission lines increased with the number of single shots. Those results, as well as scanning electron microscopy analysis of ore samples, suggest that the discrete analyte distribution as well as the inherent discrete characteristics associated to LIBS made the presence of gold in the LIBS spark an unlikely occurrence. The particle sampling rates (the percentage of laser pulses expected to sample at least one particle) were estimated for gold concentrations of 1.1 and 10.0 μg/g as 0.04% and 0.32%, respectively. A Monte Carlo simulation indicated that > 100 gold-containing particles should be sampled to accurately represent the discrete character of gold in the ore. Sampling 100 such particles requires > 105 laser pulses over a single pellet. Despite the fact that this rather large number of shots makes difficult to conduct conditional analysis on pellets, for some samples that withstood 5000 shots, gold quantification in ores was successfully achieved at concentrations as low as 1 μg/g. Results are encouraging and illustrate the applicability of LIBS to gold and silver in field semi-quantitative analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-115
Number of pages10
JournalSpectrochimica Acta - Part B Atomic Spectroscopy
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Conditional analysis
  • Gold
  • Gold ore
  • Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)
  • Silver

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Spectroscopy


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantification of gold and silver in minerals by laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this