KT10 Handheld laser induced breakdown (LIBS) spectrometer


Within seconds, the KT10 handheld metal analyzer easily performs identification of the most difficult alloy grades. KT10 utilizes laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) enabling durable and accurate alloy identification for use in: Scrap metal sorting; Quality assurance in metal fabrication; Positive material identification (PMI) in mission-critical operations, such as aerospace and petrochemical.


Advanced light element identification

LIBS is more sensitive and better suited for light element detection, such as aluminum (Al), magnesium (Mg), and beryllium (Be). However, reliable LIBS’ analysis of materials with these elements has been very limited and typically confined to a laboratory environment – until now. The handheld KT10S metal analyzer represents recent technological advancements in laser and spectrometer miniaturization that has rapidly expanded the use of this technique into industrial operations. KT10 offers an advanced method for easily identifying the most popular Al grades – 1100, 6061 and 6063 – as well as Al and silicon (Si) brasses and bronzes or Be in coppers.

In addition to the analytical performance of LIBS technology, KT10S reduces the need for regulatory licensing and registration that previous generation analyzers were susceptible to.

Durable versatility

The handheld KT10 LIBS analyzer is not only a superior aluminum analyzer, it delivers accurate identification of popular grades of stainless steel, nickel and titanium alloys, but now with the durability you can count on. KT10 has successfully passed rigorous durability tests proving its capabilities in the harshest environments. To guarantee protection, KT10 underwent strict testing to the United States Military Standard 810-G. These tests involved rigorous vibration, shock and drop testing to evaluate its durability and performance when exposed to environmental stress. In addition, its IP-54 rating and safety window protect against dusty and wet environments. As the first handheld analyzer to have passed these tests, it is truly optimized for rugged use. Thus, KT10 reduces downtime and costs associated to instrument repair known to be common for traditional handheld metal analyzers.

Sophisticated ergonomics

The design and features of the KT10  handheld LIBS analyzer put it in a class of its own. The ergonomics consist of a pistol-shape for optimal one-handed operation via use of raised buttons or by use of the ‘quick launch’ navigation buttons located near the trigger. The tilt screen allows for the ability to easily read results in any light and can also be operated as a touchscreen. KT10  is also considerably smaller and lighter than traditional metal analyzers. The unique ‘kick stand’ as a ‘grab and go’ position, provides added convenience.


Offering a rapid matrix selection, chemical composition and grade identification is simple and easy to read with QuickID software of KT10 handheld LIBS. Results are displayed in a simple “match/no match” format that alerts the user of the alloy identification, as well as the elemental composition percentages. Users have the ability to quickly add new alloys to a customized on-board library. KT10S is also password-protected with an automatic “sleep mode” for improved safety and battery life. Its on-board camera captures images of the metal pieces being analyzed with the ability to transfer data into a report via USB or WiFi..

Drill Down sample surface preparation

The metal found in these types of industrial environments is usually dirty and oxidized. KT10 features a patent pending Drill Down auto sample surface preparation capability. Users have the ability to ‘drill down’ dynamically and the analyzer will automatically burn through the common imperfections found in the metal to obtain a clean reading.


THE KT10 HANDHELD LIBS ANALYZER provides a truly ruggedized alternative for more accurate identification of a large number of metal alloys, including aluminum, stainless, copper, titanium, nickel, cupronickel, etc. to ensure higher profitability and product quality.

Advanced Performance
  • Proprietary 1064 nm Class 3B laser excitation with low ocular safety distance (NOCD)
  • Miniature, high resolution, high throughput spectrometer with CMOS detector for optimized performance
  • Spectral range covering the most relevant alloying elements and spectral features
  • User selectable “Drill Down” for surface preparation to enable improved analysis
  • Rapid matrix selection, chemical composition and grade ID with no user input required
  • Password protected with automatic “sleep mode” for improved safety and battery life
  • On-board camera for capturing sample image and bar code reader for easy data entry
Sophisticated Ergonomics
  • Pistol shaped for optimal one-handed operation: 24.3cm L x 8.4cm W x 25.7cm H (9.55”L x 3.30”W x 10.10”H) and weighing~1.5kg (3.25lbs)
  • MIL-STD-810-G certified rugged/drop tested for reduced repair costs
  • IP-54 rated for protection against dust/water for no weather-related delays
  • 3.5” high resolution tiltable screen allows for high visibility in confined spaces and outdoors
  • Choice of user interface:
    • Smartphone-inspired touchscreen provides fast learning curve
    • Large Softkey buttons for one-handed operation while wearing protective gloves
    • Unique “Quick Launch” handle buttons enable one-handed operation
  • Docking station for battery charging
  • Holster for safe keeping when on the move
  • Rechargeable Li-ion battery for 6+ hours of continuous operation
  • Aluminum alloy verification sample
  • USB, WiFi connection for simple viewing and download to any PC or mobile device
  • Easy addition of any alloy grade using Library Editor software
  • Generate verification certificates that include company logo, photo, data entry and analysis results
Additional Services
  • On-board System/Calibration verification program
  • Small sample insert for analyzing turnings and other small samples
Other Specifications
  • Certifications: FDA 1040, CE, ISO 9001:2008 Certified Manufacturing facility
  • External battery charger: 100~240VAC
  • Operating temperature of 5 to 40°C
  • Warranty of 12 months


Alloy Composition & Metal Grade Verification

Metals analysis to confirm alloy composition and metal grade verification is imperative to many industries. On-the-spot metals analysis throughout the fabrication process and beyond is critical, as even the smallest component could have detrimental effects if the incorrect alloy composition or metal grade is used.
To meet the ever increasing demands of modern metal production, metals analysis required for quality control and assurance is now possible at every stage during fabrication with the KT10 metals analyzer. The integration of LIBS technology with the most rugged handheld tool available means fab shops and others can now measure specific elements in aluminum, copper, and stainless with a tool that can withstand harsh shop environments.

Fabricators no longer have to be afraid of having their employees use delicate metals analysis equipment with a short battery life that does not last more than a few hours. KT10 handheld LIBS obtains faster results. You can easily use KT10 to confirm alloy composition and metal grade verification on your loading dock at incoming receipt, during in-process manufacturing, welding, and final check – with an extended battery life of 6 hours!

Don’t risk a costly material mix-up by relying on a Mill Test Report or Mill Test Certificate.

KT10 Metals Analyzer

KT10 Katana metals analyzer was designed to integrate seamlessly into your fabrication process. Provide your team with an easy-to-use, smart-phone inspired, small and light weight device designed for one-handed operation for minimal operator fatigue. Features include a large onboard library and memory that can store over 4,000 measurements.

KT10 metals analyzer offers unique benefits that have not been available for rapid metals analysis throughout the manufacturing process and beyond using handheld LIBS:

  • Results in seconds at the touch of 1 button
  • Less downtime with longest battery life
  • Only MIL STD 810G certified rugged handheld LIBS
  • Protection against dust with an IP-54 rating
  • GPS tracking
  • No argon purge required

Metals analysis using KT10 handheld LIBS metals analyzer allows you to confirm alloy composition and metal grade verification at every step of your manufacturing process, so you don’t have to worry about a costly metal mix-up. Expand your metals analysis capabilities by upgrading your metals analyzer today!

Modern Scrap Metal Sorting

Scrap metal sorting is changing. As any recycler will report, traditional scrap metal sorting techniques are becoming outdated. At the same time, the volume of scrap received from a variety of sources has increased, fueling the demand for better tools to maximize scrap metal identification and profits. Ask any scrap yard owner or manager about the effects of inaccurate scrap metal identification to his or her business. With fluctuating metals prices, precise scrap metal sorting is more important than ever and could mean the difference between reselling aluminum at $.25/lb. vs. $1.25/lb.
Most handheld metal identification analyzers are inherently fragile and fail to rapidly identify light alloying elements. Old generation metal identification devices still have the same technological limitations, even when placed in a new shell. Recyclers simply can’t afford to not step into the new generation of scrap metal sorting.

KT10 Katana handheld LIBS is the new generation rugged and efficient scrap metal sorting analyzer scrap yards want. It is the only handheld metal analyzer to pass rigorous United States military specified durability testing and achieve MIL- STD-810G and IP-54 certification. This means that KT10 handheld LIBS can survive repeated drops from at least three feet, in addition to other mechanical shocks and environmental rigors. Easy to use, with results in seconds, Recyclers can now easily step into the new generation of scrap metal sorting.

Using KT10, you can now rapidly sort metal grades you didn’t think possible:

  • Sort 1100, 6061, 6063 aluminum (Al) grades
  • Separate stainless steel scrap
  • Sort exotics that contain beryllium (Be)
  • Separate copper alloys

KT10 Metal Tester

KT10 Katana handheld LIBS is certified rugged metal tester for use in scrapyards. It is the smallest, lightest metal tester of its kind that in turn, increases the battery life. Katana utilizes a unique user-adjustable auto surface preparation, Drill-Down™ that helps remove dirt and contamination so you don’t have to. Designed to make scrap metal sorting more efficient, KT10 Katana features a kick stand for easy placement. The adjustable screen optimizes your user’s view of the metal grade and element-by-element composition results. Take advantage of downtime with the included docking station which provides continuous charge and a secure storage location.

KT10 metal tester provides unique scrap metal sorting benefits that until now have not been found in scrapyards using handheld LIBS:

  • Results in seconds at the touch of 1 button
  • Less downtime with longest battery life
  • MIL STD 810G certified rugged handheld LIBS
  • Protection against dust with an IP-54 rating
  • GPS tracking
  • No argon purge required

Scrap metal sorting with KT10 handheld LIBS helps you maximize the way you sort. As an additional advantage, you don’t have to be concerned with radiation licensing requirements because this metal tester does not emit x-rays. Expand your scrap metal sorting capabilities today!

PMI Testing

Petrochemical, petroleum and power plants have put more stringent positive material identification (PMI) and PMI testing programs in place to avoid disastrous tragic accidents and injuries, environmental damage and property loss. Catastrophic failures have been attributed to component or equipment failure due to incorrect alloy composition or the wrong metal grade with some parts being manufactured using sub-par alloys and counterfeit metals that do not meet specifications.

PMI tests are performed to confirm that components meet alloy composition and grade specifications for corrosion resistance, tolerance of extreme temperatures and processes, and other industrial requirements where metal components are mission critical. PMI testing includes both Retro-PMI for metal components installed within existing plants and also vendor qualification assessments or ongoing monitoring to ensure alloy quality.

Typical methods for PMI testing includes laboratory analysis which is costly and time consuming or handheld technology that is either too fragile or too slow to use in the typical plant environment. To address PMI test requirements and efficient PMI testing in challenging harsh scenarios, the KT10 Katana handheld LIBS was designed to provide you with a new method for ensuring alloy composition.

By adding KT10 as a PMI tester, you can now identify common alloy grades in seconds – at the pull of a trigger. To protect against dusty and harsh work environments, KT10 handheld LIBS is MIL STD 810G and IP-54 certified durable. KT10 Katana is more robust and less susceptible to fatigue and downtime all of which are extremely important factors for on and off-site PMI testing operations. Its GPS tracking and macro camera allow for instrument and sample tracking.

KT10 PMI Analyzer

KT10 Katana offers unique PMI testing benefits that until now have not been offered using handheld LIBS:

  • Results in less than seconds at the touch of 1 button
  • Less downtime with longest battery life
  • Only MIL STD 810G certified rugged handheld LIBS
  • Protection against dust with an IP-54 rating
  • GPS tracking
  • No argon purge required

Using KT10, alloy grade and composition results are clearly displayed which include an element-by-element comparison for the identified alloy grade. Don’t risk costly material mix-ups by relying on Mill Test Reports or Mill Test Certificates. Expand your positive materials identification capabilities by upgrading your PMI testing device today!

White Papers


The most successful and best suited for rapid identification of alloys in field has been Handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (HHXRF). However, the XRF has inherent difficulty in analysis of many important aluminum alloys as well as other alloys containing low atomic number elements such as lithium, beryllium, boron, silicon or magnesium. The common practice to overcome this deficiency has been use of Optical Emission Spectroscopy (OES) or – most recently – Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS). Both these techniques can analyze all alloys the XRF can and especially those the XRF cannot. Recent technological advancements made possible design of handheld analyzers based on LIBS which are especially well suited to analysis of aluminum alloys. In this paper we report on the design features of ’s KT10, micro-LIBS handheld analyser and discuss its performance in analysis and sorting of aluminum alloys, especially those containing light alloying elements such as Si, Li, Be, Mg.

Keywords: uLIBS; micro-LIBS; alloy analysis; handheld analyzers.

1. Introduction

Contemporary industries require reliable and accurate alloy identification. This is especially true for mission critical applications of alloys such as in power generating plants, aviation, refineries and chemical processing installations where the identity (grade) of every metal component must be verified. On the other end of the spectrum the alloy recycling and alloy manufacturing industries also depend on reliable identification of recycled metals used in production of alloys. The most successful and best suited for rapid alloy identification of alloys in field has been Handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (HHXRF). The levels of accuracy and speed of analysis this method provides established it as a benchmark against which other competitive analytical methods are compared. However, the XRF has inherent difficulty in analysis of many important aluminum alloys as well as other alloys containing low atomic number elements such as lithium, beryllium, boron, silicon or magnesium. The common practice to overcome this deficiency has been use of Optical Emission Spectroscopy (OES) or – most recently – Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS). Both these techniques can analyze all alloys the XRF can and especially those the XRF cannot. Unfortunately, both these analytical methods were best suited to laboratory environments, until now. The recent technological advancements such as availability of inexpensive miniature, solid state micro-lasers and small, compact spectrometers, have made the design of handheld LIBS analyzers possible. This development rapidly expanded the use of LIBS especially into field operations such as alloy sorting and analysis. Since LIBS is better suited for analysis of light elements such as lithium (Li), aluminum (Al), magnesium (Mg), and beryllium (Be) than its main rival, handheld x-ray fluorescence (XRF), it quickly gained industry acceptance as a method of choice for sorting alloys, and specifically aluminum scrap. Aluminum recycling is very important economically because using recycled aluminum to make new aluminum alloy requires 5 to 8 % less energy than to make it from bauxite ore [1]. Perhaps the best indicator of importance of aluminum scrap recycling is the fact that about 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today [1].

2. The principle of LIBS

Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, LIBS, in its basic concept is very similar to the well known method of Optical Emission Spectroscopy, OES. Both methods rely on spectral analysis of plasma light generated from the sample. The main difference between them is in the way they generate plasma. In LIBS, unlike in OES, we use laser light rather than an electric arc to break up sampled material and convert it to plasma. The use of laser as excitation source offers many advantages of which the most important is the ability to precisely control the energy delivered by laser pulse to the material. Many types of lasers can be used as long as they provide in a single pulse energy density in excess of 109 W/cm2 , a threshold required for ablation of metals [2, 3]. However, design requirements of the handheld instruments, such as small size, low weight and battery power limit the laser selection to small power, semiconductor types. Typical laser used in HHLIBS instruments is a semiconductor, Q-switched, diode pumped Nd/YAG crystal generating light pulses at wavelength of 1064 nm and energy on the order of 0.1mJ to 1.0 mJ per pulse. The very short (on the order of few nanosecond) pulse of light tightly focused on sample surface generates a burst of high density energy that ablates a small mass of the sample and heats it to tens of thousands of degrees Kelvin, converting it to plasma. The plume of plasma, made of electrons and ionized atoms, lasts typically about 100 microseconds, long after the initiating laser light pulse is extinguished. In the absence of other sources of energy, the plume of plasma begins to cool, and the electrons freed from the atoms by the initial laser pulse start to recombine with ionized atoms to return to their original atomic states. In the process electrons must shed the surplus energy which is released in the form of light, typically ranging between 200 to 700 nm (UV to red). The emitted light is collected and transmitted to a miniature spectrometer fitted with a high sensitivity CCD detector for spectral analysis. The spectrometer sorts the intensity of light by its wavelength. The resulting histogram of light intensity as function of wavelength, called a wavelength spectrum, is the principle source of data from which quantitative information about sample composition is derived. Finally, the elemental composition of alloy determined from its LIBS spectrum is compared to the table of alloys specifications to identify the grade of the alloy under test. Figure 1 shows a schematic of the process taking place in the LIBS analyzer. Examples of emission spectra of stainless steel SS316 and aluminum alloy AA7075, obtained with HHLIBS analyzer, are shown in Figure 2.

3. Handheld micro-LIBS Analyzer.

3.1. Design and operational characteristics

An example of practical embodiment of a Handheld micro- LIBS analyzer is shown in Figures 3 and 4. The analyzer has been designed primarily for use in harsh environments of scrap recycling yards, metal fabrication and positive material identification (PMI) operations. Therefore, much attention was devoted to making this ergonomically designed instrument dust and shock resistant. Consequently, it is the only handheld LIBS instrument that complies with IP-54 and MIL-STD-810G standards [4]. One of the unique features of the analyzer is its 1064 nm Class 3B laser engine which incorporates fixed excitation and detection optics. The laser generates pulses of 120 uJ energy with frequency that can be selected between 100 to 1000 Hz. A miniature, Czerny-Turner spectrometer with CCD detector complements the analytical module. Its wavelength range covers a band from 200 to 480 nm, at an average wavelength resolution of better than 0.2 nm.

To measure composition of an alloy sample operator places the tapered “nose” of the analyzer against the surface of sample and squeezes the trigger to initiate the test. The laser beam focused to diameter of about 30 to 40 µm slides back and forth over sample surface for a period of one second at the end of which chemical composition of tested alloy and its grade are displayed on a color, tiltable LCD screen. All measurement results along with the original spectra are stored in on-board memory which has capacity of several thousands. Optionally, a picture of measured object generated by the build-in camera can be stored with each test result. Full technical details of the analyser may be found in [5].

3.2. Calibration

Handheld LIBS analyzers are calibrated using empirical approach. A set of alloys of well-known composition is measured and from the spectra obtained the intensities of elements are extracted. Next, the intensities are correlated with elemental concentrations to generate calibration curve for each analyte. The mass of material ablated by laser pulse and characteristics of resulting plasma vary considerably from pulse to pulse directly influencing the intensities of analytes. In order to minimize this effect, a ratio of analyte intensity to the intensity of matrix element is used to build calibration curve rather than the analyte intensity itself. The most robust calibration curves are obtained when intensity ratios are correlated with ratios of analyte concentration to that of the matrix element as shown by equation 1.

where: - ci and cAl are concentration of analyte, I, and matrix element, Al, respectively, - Ii and IAl are intensities of analyte, I, and matrix element, Al, respectively, - a0, a1, a2, a3 are coefficients of equation

Figures 4 and 5 show examples of calibration curves for magnesium and silicon, the two most important light elements for the most popular aluminum alloys. Typically, an acceptable calibration curve would exhibit correlation coefficient, R, greater than 0.95.

Alloys used for calibration must be representative of the unknown material to be tested and cover expected concentration ranges of analytes. If the calibration curve cannot be represented by equation of straight line additional, special composition alloys, must be procured to properly define the shape of calibration curve. In recent years a so called “calibration free” approach (CF-LIBS) has been proposed to alleviate the problem. It is based on application of theoretical, Saha-Boltzmann equation which ties spectral intensities of elements with their concentrations in plasma via plasma temperature [6]. The accuracy of this method in laboratory conditions for metals and alloys may be better than 1% relative but only for the matrix elements while for minor elements inaccuracy may be as much as 10 or even 20% relative. At present time it is impossible to implement it on handheld LIBS devices. Depending on analyte and alloy matrix, typical accuracy offered by empirically calibrated handheld LIBS analyzer varies from 5 to 10 % relative.

3.3. Grade identification

In order to determine grade of an alloy the concentrations of analytes measured in it are compared with composition specifications of alloy grades stored in the device library. The grade of the alloy whose specifications best match the measured composition of unknown sample is then assigned to that unknown. The simplest criterion of match is based on the concept of Euclidean distance as per equation (2) below:

where: - ci is concentration of element i measured in unknown sample, - c j i is nominal/expected concentration of element, i, in an alloy grade, j, as retrieved from grade specification, - dj is a match number, a measure of similarity of composition of measured alloy to that of the library alloy grade, j. The smaller the value of dj, the better the match. In practice, this formula is modified to account for various factors, such as measurement errors or statistical weights of elements critical for the match. Finally, for convenience of interpretation, dj is normalized in such a way that perfect match is represented by number one and no match by zero.

4. Analytical performance

Figures 6 and 7 illustrate the level of accuracy of analysis achieved by handheld micro-LIBS analyzer for magnesium and silicon measured on certified reference standards of aluminum alloys. All measurements were taken for less than one second each.

A table 1 below shows typical detection limits one may expected when using handheld micro-LIBS analyzer to test aluminum alloys. The data is a snapshot obtained from randomly selected twelve production issue instruments, model KT10, over the period of three months. Individual instruments may exhibit much better LODs than the values quoted in the table.

Table 1. Typical Limits of Detection (LOD) for aluminum alloys with handheld µLIBS Analyzer

Figure 8 demonstrates the level of precision and reproducibility of an analyzer across four different devices. The measurements were repeated ten times per unit. The alloy was of 356 grade aluminum. The red line represents certified weight percent of magnesium (at 0.351%), blue line is an average of all 40 tests (at 0.359%), and gray lines represent a ± 3 standard deviations band around the measured average.

Figure 9 shows example of results of grade identification. For this test each alloy listed in table was measured at least 3 times on seven different instruments, for a total of 29 tests per alloy. As can be seen, when alloy 6061 was measured, it was identified correctly 90% of the time and misidentified as alloy 6063 10% of the time. Conversely, alloy 6063 was positively identified 93% of the time and mixed with alloy 6061 7% of the time. As it is evidenced by Table 2, the mix-ups are the consequence of very small differences between compositions of these two alloys and unavoidable errors of measurement. Apart from improving the accuracy of measurement the quality of identification will often improve by adjusting composition specifications from the official to “as produced” limits. Results for other alloys listed in Fig. 9 similarly indicate that the potential mix-ups occur within the given alloy series.

Table 2. Composition specifications for aluminium alloy grades 6061 and 6063

5. Special considerations

5.1. Sample surface preparation

A micro-LIBS with its 10 to 30 micrometer depth penetration ability is essentially a surface analytical technique. While the analyzer is calibrated with very well characterized, certified alloy standards each having flat, clean surface, the real alloys tested in field do not resemble the ideal of the calibration standard. Their surface is likely to be contaminated, perhaps even painted and not flat. The state of sample surface may negatively affect the results and in order to avoid this one should prepare the surface before analysis. A short laser “preburn” of the spot before actual LIBS analysis is convenient way of surface preparation. During preburn laser beam ablates and burns away surface contamination, leaving a clean surface for subsequent laser pulses for LIBS analysis. For aluminum alloys it is usually sufficient to select preburn which is about 2 to 3 times longer than the time needed for analytical burn.

5.2. Homogeneity of sample and beam rastering

Another factor that affects representativeness of results is inherent nonhomogeneity of sample itself. Figure 9 shows example of large crystallites of silicone in aluminum matrix. This particular alloy contained 17% of silicon. Red circle imitates diameter of laser beam focused on alloy surface. It is obvious that results of analysis will strongly depend on the location of laser beam. It is therefore recommended to take more than one measurement and Alloy 1100 2024 6061 7075 3003 3004 3005 5052 5056 6063 356 1100 100 2024 100 6061 90 10 7075 100 3003 100 3004 93 7 3005 100 5052 100 5056 4 96 6063 7 93 356 100 Alloys in Library Alloys Measured at different locations so the average may be more representative of the bulk composition. It is worth to note that some degree of averaging is already provided by rastering the laser beam across sample surface. Beam rastering is requirement with micro-power lasers. If the laser beam is stationary, the intensity of plasma decreases very fast with each consecutive scan as is shown in Figure 10 by blue data points. This is because consecutive laser pulses striking the same location deepen the crater on sample surface and negatively affect lasersample coupling efficiency. When laser beam moves across the sample it always strikes new, solid spot on its surface.

6. Conclusions

Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy successfully migrated from laboratory to industrial environment in the form of a handheld LIBS analyzer. This ergonomically designed instrument can analyze composition of aluminum and other alloys in less than two second per sample. Good accuracy of analysis combined with sophisticated identification algorithm allow the instrument to identify alloy grades with 95 to 100% success rate, making it into excellent alloy sorting tool. This is especially true for sorting aluminum grades as many of them contain magnesium and silicon. As new elements, such as boron, lithium, are being introduced to aluminum alloys family one should anticipate µLIBS to become more and more useful.


[1] https://www.lehighcounty.org/Departments/Solid-Waste-Management/Recycling-Facts/Aluminum, accessed January, 2017. [2] R. Noll, Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, Fundamentals and Applications, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2012. [3] L. J. Radziemski, D.A. Cremers, Handbook of Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, John Wiley, New York, 2006. [4] KT10 Katana Environmental & Ruggedness Testing Results, accessed January, 2017. [5] Product Specification Sheet, accessed January, 2017. [6]E. Tognoni, G. Cristoforetti, S. Legnaioli, V. Palleschi, Calibration-Free Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy: State of the art, Spectrochim. Acta Part B, 65 (2010), pp. 1-14.


Scrap Metal Sorting is Changing

As any recycler will report, traditional scrap metal sorting techniques are becoming outdated. At the same time, the volume of scrap received from a variety of sources has increased, fueling the demand for better tools to maximize scrap metal identification and profits. With fluctuating metals prices, precise scrap metal sorting is more important than ever and could mean the difference between reselling materials for cents vs. dollars.

Older generation metal identification instruments can be cumbersome and difficult to use in the typical yard environment. Handheld analyzers are now the instrument of choice in order to meet the rigorous demands of modern scrap recycling. They can provide accurate alloy grade separations for fast identification. However, In addition to being fragile, the technological limitations often result in a failure to rapidly identify all alloying elements – which can mean a missed opportunity for profit gain.

William Sullivan & Co, a local scrap metal recycler from some of the area’s largest manufacturers, was looking for a way to improve the efficiency of its sorting process by reducing the time and costs associated to metal analysis. Having implemented a handheld laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) analyzer from Analytical Devices, Sullivan Scrap has benefited from the ability to analyze a wider range of metals at the point of need. This recycler is now able to sell piles of scrap that have been taking up space at a more precise cost – leading to an increase in profit.

William Sullivan & Co: The Sorting Business

Founded in 1953, and based in Holyoke, MA USA, Sullivan Scrap has made a business out of taking care of the environment by recycling scrap metal purchased from some of the area’s largest manufacturers, down to local individuals in and around New England. They have created a business which focuses on providing customers with the fairest pricing for their scrap, in addition to the most effective, convenient solutions for handling scrap metal challenges. Sullivan Scrap processes about 70,000 tons of material each year, with 25% being non-ferrous. In order to stay competitive, they use different handheld technologies to identify their incoming material in order to process it as efficiently as possible.

The Light Metal Challenge

Sullivan Scrap has been using handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) for many years, typically for the analysis of nickel alloys, brasses, and other metals made up of heavier elements. They found a gap in this technique when it came to processing lighter alloys, such as aluminum.

Sullivan Scrap discovered LIBS technology about two years ago, and was very pleased with how well the KT10 did for light element analysis – especially in aluminums. Brian Powell, Vice President, managed the implementation of the handheld LIBS analyzer, described their initial reaction to this new technology, “We have been very impressed with ’s LIBS capabilities of separating Al 6061 alloys from Al 5052, which can be very difficult to process so quickly. Brian added, “The speed of obtaining those results was something we had not previously experienced and therefore allowed us to sort specific alloys out so we’re not making a mixed package.” This allowed Sullivan to upgrade the material they were preparing and thus increase profitability on every pound.

The KT10 analyzer utilizes the latest technology for materials identification, laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). This elemental analytical technique has the ability to detect and quantify elemental composition – both heavy and light elements – in a solid, liquid or gas state.

LIBS is more sensitive and better suited for light element detection – such as aluminum (Al), magnesium (Mg), and beryllium (Be). However, reliable LIBS analysis of materials with these elements, especially at the point-of-need, has been very limited and typically confined to a laboratory environment – until now.

Recent technological advancements such as miniature, solid state micro-lasers, as well as small, compact spectrometers, have made the design of handheld LIBS possible and rapidly expanded the use of this versatile technique into filed operations – such as alloy sorting and analysis.

Because the KT10 LIBS analyzer utilizes laser technology, there is no radiation exposure, and minimal to no regulatory restrictions or registration and licensing fees.


Sullivan Scrap primarily uses the KT10 LIBS analyzer to sort aluminum alloys, but will use it to sort heavier metals when their handheld XRF is not available. “We know we can rely on the KT10 for other alloys and it will do a consistent job just like it does with the aluminum alloys,” said Brian.

With the longest battery life of any other handheld metal analyzer of over 6 hours, KT10 is less susceptible to fatigue and downtime, which is critical for on and off-site operations. Users are able to hold over 4,000 measurements. The analyzer package includes a docking station cradle that will charge the analyzer plus a spare battery at the same time. “It’s very quick and easy and is just right there ready to go whenever you need it,” said Brian. WiFi capability allows the yard supervisor or manager to view results via wireless network remotely so to make an immediate decision on a material from anywhere in the yard. Further, its macro camera allows for sample images to be tagged to their associated results on the unit instead of on a mobile device.


With such a large influx of various metals, Sullivan was in need of a tool that would be easy to introduce to any employee in their yard. With the ability to select what information is available on a results’ screen, Brian determines what he would like his users to see, whether it is the spectra, the chemistry breakdown, or even just the alloy name. Brian will usually have the instrument run in “Alloy Match” mode, so his workers do not need to make any determinations on their own. For more complicated metals, Brian has the ability to view the chemistry breakdown. “They can scan all of the aluminum and it will come up with a simple alloy name,” said Brian. “We can make it as simple or complex as we want.”

Another essential feature is that the keyboard consists of hard, raised buttons. Other handheld analyzers are moving towards a touch screen operation only, and this could be a problem for users who are wearing work gloves for an entire shift. In addition, the buttons of the KT10 are assignable. “We can go right from the 'Alloy Match' result over to an in-depth alloy analysis that shows the element breakdown, and then back again to the Alloy Match, very quickly,” Brian commented.


The environment at a scrap metal sorting facility is not ideal for analytical technology instruments. Therefore, any tool used to sort metal, needs to be able to withstand the toughest use.

Another challenge with the use of their handheld XRF was the analysis window would regularly become jammed when analyzing small pieces, i.e. turnings, and the instrument would need to be returned to the factory for repair. This resulted in down time for the scrap yard, plus has an associated cost.

The KT10 handheld LIBS analyzer has successfully passed rigorous durability tests proving its capabilities for meeting the needs of those who require a rugged handheld metal analyzer in the harshest environments. To guarantee protection against all work environments, KT10 analyzer underwent strict testing to the United States Military Standard MIL-STD-810G. These tests involved rigorous vibration, shock and drop testing which focused on impact to every angle of the instrument to evaluate its durability and performance when exposed to environmental stress. In addition, its IP-54 rating and safety window composed of fused silica provide protection against dusty and wet environments. As the first handheld metal analyzer to have passed these tests it is truly optimized for rugged use.

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