The PICOLIBS project (3 years long project) brings together the CIMAP (Caen), the CORIA (Rouen) and the LOMC (Le Havre) laboratories to demonstrate the effectiveness of an innovative method for analyzing multi-elemental components called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) made of picosecond pulses. This new and promising method for the analysis will be aimed at characterization of energy materials made with light elements.
This research project focuses on four objectives combining the skills of the three laboratories:
- the development of a fiber laser system for producing pulses of the order of picoseconds (10-12 s) ,
- the preparation of test materials
- the analysis of these materials and some industrial samples and, comparing the results with other spectroscopic methods (NRA and SIMS )
- the development of a modeling code explaining the properties of the picosecond pulses induced plasma.
The studied materials are components of nuclear or aerospace industry undergoing extreme stress in normal use. Those include:
- EUROFER steel used in nuclear fission reactors and subjected to neutron bombardment,
- tungsten tiles (plasma facing component) covering nuclear fusion reactors and undergoing deuterium bombardments
- CERASEP composite used in the combustion chambers of civil aviation engines and constrained to oxidation and corrosion reactions,
- TPS (thermal protection system) tiles covering spacecrafts during entry into the atmosphere and protecting them from oxidation and nitriding at these high temperatures.
The principle of the laser induced plasma spectroscopy (LIBS) is based on focusing a laser beam on a sample of the material causing the melting and evaporation thereof. The ionized gas then produced is a plasma brought to a high temperature and high pressure producing a shock wave.
LIBS analysis is the study of the emission spectrum of volatilized compounds. However, the quantitative analysis can be difficult when the composition of the plasma differs significantly from that of the sample. It is therefore necessary to go through the stages of pre-calibration to minimize matrix effects on analysis results.
Nevertheless, the passage of a nanosecond to a picosecond pulse minimizes a number of limiting factors in the usual LIBS spectroscopy such as matrix effects, thermodynamic imbalance, light diffusion species or background emission ("noise").
Teams in charge of the project hope PICOLIBS will bring many benefits in the field of spectroscopic analysis (LIBS), lasers with the development of a picosecond fiber laser module and the physics of heavy-electron collisions.