Megapixel multi-elemental imaging by Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, a technology with considerable potential for paleoclimate studies

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Paleoclimate studies play a crucial role in understanding past and future climates and their environmental impacts. Current methodologies for performing highly sensitive elemental analysis at micrometre spatial resolutions are restricted to the use of complex and/or not easily applied techniques, such as synchrotron radiation X-ray fluorescence micro-analysis (μ-SRXRF), nano secondary ion mass spectrometry (nano-SIMS) or laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LAICP-MS). Moreover, the analysis of large samples (>few cm²) with any of these methods remains very challenging due to their relatively low acquisition speed (~1–10 Hz), and because they must be operated in vacuum or controlled atmosphere. In this work, we proposed an imaging methodology based on laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, to perform fast multi-elemental scanning of large geological samples with high performance in terms of sensitivity (ppm-level), lateral resolution (up to 10 μm) and operating speed (100 Hz). This method was successfully applied to obtain the first megapixel images of large geological samples and yielded new information, not accessible using other techniques. These results open a new perspective into the use of laser spectroscopy in a variety of geochemical applications.