Natural gas, which is predominantly methane, is recognized as clean burning and an important bridge fuel to a future where renewable energy sources are more common. Natural gas currently accounts for nearly a quarter of the U.S. energy supply, and that share is expected to remain roughly constant over the next several decades. Energy demand during this time period is expected to continue growing, in the U.S. and in the world. The Energy Information Administration projects that the U.S. will need to increase its annual production of natural gas by roughly 10% over the next 25 years, in order to keep pace with rising consumption.
Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy, or LIBS, is a type of atomic emission spectroscopy. LIBS operates by focusing the laser onto a small area at the surface of the specimen; when the laser is discharged it ablates (vaporizes) a very small amount of material, in the range of nanograms to picograms, which generates a plasma plume with temperatures in excess of 10,000 K. There is a short delay of approximately 10 µs while the plasma cools before the characteristic atomic emission lines of the elements can be observed, making necessary a shutter delay on the detector.