Various sample presentation configurations for elemental analysis in aqueous media by laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) have been tested and analyzed. Direct and quantitative comparison between the two different sample presentation methods, plasma excitation within water bulk and on the surface in a water jet, has been carried out using the same LIBS system under the same experimental conditions. Temporal characteristics of light emitted from the plasma induced in both the water bulk and the jet surface containing calcium (Ca) were recorded and presented. Spectral data recorded under optimum detection gating conditions showed that the signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) for excitation in the water jet configuration is approximately 10 times higher than that in the bulk excitation, the actual values of enhancement being dependent on the element type. The typical spectra of aqueous samples containing sodium (Na), calcium (Ca), zinc (Zn), cadmium (Cd), and mercury (Hg) were detected and the signal-to-noise ratios were evaluated and compared for the sample presentation configurations under considerations. The results suggest that for better sensitivity of detection, a simple water jet sample presentation configuration could be designed and implemented for cost-effective commercial use of this technique for elemental analysis in a water environment.

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