Review on recent advances in analytical applications of molecular emission and modelling

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The review mainly deals with two topics that became important in applications of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) in recent years: the emission of halogen- and rare-earth-containing molecules and selective excitation of molecules by molecular laser-induced fluorescence (MLIF). The first topic is related to the emission of alkaline-earth diatomic halides MX, M = Ca, Mg, Ba, Sr and X = F, Cl, Br, and I and rare-earth element (REE) oxides LaO, YO, and ScO. These molecules form in laser-induced plasma (LIP) soon after its ignition and persist for a long time, emitting broad bands in a visible part of the spectrum. They are best detected after relatively long delay times when emission from interfering plasma species (atoms and ions) has already been quenched. Such behavior of molecular spectra allows of using, for their detection, inexpensive CCD detectors equipped with simple electronic or mechanical shutters and low-resolution spectrometers. A main target for analysis by molecular spectroscopy is halogens; these elements are difficult to detect by atomic spectroscopy because their most intense atomic lines lie in the vacuum UV. Therefore, in many situations, emission from CaF and CaCl may provide a substantially more sensitive detection of F and Cl than emission from elemental F and Cl and their ions. This proved to be important in mining and concrete industries and even Mars exploration. A similar situation is observed for REEs; their detection by atomic spectroscopy sometimes fails even despite the abundance of atomic and ionic REEs' lines in the UV-VIS. For example, in minerals and rocks with low concentrations of REEs, emission from major and minor mineral elements hinders the weak emission from REEs. Many REEs do not form molecules that show strong emission bands in LIP but can still be detected with the aid of LIP. All REEs except La, Y, and Sc exhibit long-lived luminescence in solid matrices that is easily excited by LIP. The luminescence can be detected simultaneously with molecular emission of species in LIP within the same time and spectral window. The second topic is related to the combination of MLIF and LIBS, which is a technique that was proved to be efficient for analysis of isotopic molecules in LIP. For example, the characteristic spectral signals from isotopic molecules containing 10B and 11B are easier to detect with MLIF-LIBS than with laser ablation molecular isotopic spectrometry (LAMIS) because MLIF provides strong resonance excitation of only targeted isotopes. The technique is also very efficient in detection of halogen molecules although it requires an additional tunable laser that makes the experimental setup bulky and more expensive.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105989
JournalSpectrochimica Acta - Part B Atomic Spectroscopy
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Halogens
  • LIBS, molecular spectroscopy
  • Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy
  • MLIF
  • Molecular laser-induced fluorescence
  • Plasma
  • Rare-earth elements


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