A focused laser beam of moderate power and any wavelength can cause breakdown in a gas, in a liquid, or at a solid surface. The resultant plasma is a good source of excited atoms for atomic emission spectroscopy, and conventional spectroscopic techniques may be used for identification of the atomic species present. Time resolution of the emission spectrum provides increased detection capabilities. Since the continuum background is short-lived and ionic lifetimes are shorter than neutrals, a carefully chosen time window can result in a better SNR than can be obtained from a spectrum integrated over the full lifetime of the plasma.

© 1982 Optical Society of America

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