Airborne silica dust (quartz) is common in coal mines and represents a respiratory hazard that can lead to silicosis, a potentially fatal lung disease. With an eye toward developing a portable monitoring device for rapid analysis of silica dust, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) was used to quantify quartz in coal dust samples collected on filter media. Pure silica (Min-U-Sil<sup>TM</sup> 5), Georgia kaolin, and Pittsburgh-4 and Illinois-6 coal dusts were deposited separately and at multiple mass loadings onto 37-mm polyvinylchloride (PVC) filters. LIBS-generated silicon emission was monitored at 288.16 nm, and non-silica contributions to that signal from kaolinite were removed by simultaneously detecting aluminum. Measurements of the four samples were used to calculate limits of detection (LOD) for silicon and aluminum of approximately 0.08 ?g/cm<sup>2</sup> and 0.05 ?g/cm<sup>2</sup>, respectively (corresponding to 0.16 ?g/cm<sup>2</sup> and 0.20 ?g/cm<sup>2</sup> for silica and kaolinite, respectively). Relative errors of prediction are around 10%. Results demonstrate that LIBS can dependably quantify silica on filter samples of coal dust and confirm that accurate quantification can be achieved for very lightly loaded samples, which supports the potential application of LIBS for rapid, in-field monitoring.
Christopher B. Stipe, Arthur L. Miller, Jonathan Brown, Edward Guevara, and Emanuele Cauda, "Evaluation of Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) for Measurement of Silica on Filter Samples of Coal Dust," Appl. Spectrosc. 66, 1286-1293 (2012)