22 Nov 2022
Acquisition of handheld laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy technology targets metal recycling applications.
US-based photonics technology company Ocean Insight has expanded its portfolio of analytical products with the acquisition of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) technology from Japan’s Rigaku.
The deal will see Ocean benefit from additional LIBS-based equipment used for rapid assessment of scrap aluminum for recycling, combining Rigaku Analytical Device’s expertise with its own.
“Consumer demand for goods containing aluminum is growing each year,” Ocean announced. “Combining [our] new LIBS ‘SpeedSorter’ high-speed aluminum sorting technology with the Rigaku Analytical Devices handheld LIBS units gives Ocean Insight’s customers increased flexibility when evaluating aluminum, regardless of environment or alloy grade.“
According to the Florida-headquartered firm, this will include increased capability for determining the chemical composition of each piece of scrap aluminum before they are sorted into distinct types that can be melted down and recycled.
Ocean Insight president Michael Edwards said: “Recycling scrap aluminum is up to 95 per cent more energy efficient than producing new aluminum. This means a much smaller carbon footprint for manufacturers and consumers alike, as well as lower costs.
“Acquiring this technology from Rigaku Analytical Devices helps Ocean expand its reach into the $217 billion global metal recycling market to create new ways to protect the planet’s resources.”
Paint pigments to Martian rocks
The non-destructive LIBS technique works by generating a small area of plasma when the laser is aimed at the target material. Spectroscopic analysis of the light emitted by the plasma then reveals which elements are present, and in what quantities.
The approach has found use in a wide variety of applications and environments, for example analyzing pigments used in works of art, for skin cancer diagnosis, and to examine Martian rocks for their mineral content inside the “ChemCam” instrument carried by the Curiosity rover.
Rigaku is one of several instrumentation firms to have introduced handheld LIBS technology. Others include Bruker, Oxford Instruments, SciAps, B&W Tek, and TSI.
Ocean’s existing LIBS sorting technology - which was recently shortlisted for a Prism Award at the forthcoming SPIE Photonics West event in San Francisco - comes in the form of a 28-kilogram benchtop unit featuring red and infrared lasers that is capable of analyzing a wide range of metals, including aluminum.
The main advantage of Rigaku’s version of the equipment is that it comes in a rugged and portable form factor, with a battery life said to last all day.
Ocean says that the handheld LIBS units are ideal for use in scrapyards around the world, for example to scan incoming material as it arrives.
“We are seeing a structural shift in the global economy towards sustainability and operating with more sustainable solutions across a wide range of industries,” Edwards added.
“Ocean Insight is committed to advancing the circular economy. The LIBS handheld instruments play a key role in designing out waste and incorporating recycled materials in the future.”