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Hydrogen Leak Detection Using Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy

Volume 59, Number 3 (March 2005) Page 348-353

Ball, A.J.; Hohreiter, V.; Hahn, D.W.

Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is investigated as a technique for real-time monitoring of hydrogen gas. Two methodologies were examined: The use of a 100 mJ laser pulse to create a laser-induced breakdown directly in a sample gas stream, and the use of a 55 mJ laser pulse to create a laser-induced plasma on a solid substrate surface, with the expanding plasma sampling the gas stream. Various metals were analyzed as candidate substrate surfaces, including aluminum, copper, molybdenum, stainless steel, titanium, and tungsten. Stainless steel was selected, and a detailed analysis of hydrogen detection in binary mixtures of nitrogen and hydrogen at atmospheric pressure was performed. Both the gaseous plasma and the plasma initiated on the stainless steel surface generated comparable hydrogen emission signals, using the 656.28 Hα emission line, and exhibited excellent signal linearity. The limit of detection is about 20 ppm (mass) as determined for both methodologies, with the solid-initiated plasma yielding a slightly better value. Overall, LIBS is concluded to be a viable candidate for hydrogen sensing, offering a combination of high sensitivity with a technique that is well suited to implementation in field environments.