Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) was used for the characterization of the main components of the surface residual dirt produced in cold-rolled steel plates as a consequence of the manufacturing stages. At laser fluences between 0.05 J/cm<sup>2</sup> < <i>F</i> < 0.30 J/cm<sup>2</sup>, dirt ablation takes place without any contribution from the substrate. Results show that the main components of the dirt are fine particles of Fe mostly homogeneously distributed in a thin layer of grease and soaps. In the primary stages of the manufacturing process carbon residuals can also be found. By measuring light emission from the λ = 495.9 nm line of Fe(I) after laser ablation, we developed a real-time on-line method for the determination of the concentration of iron particles present in the surface dirt. The obtained results open new possibilities in the design of real-time instruments for industrial applications as a quality control of products and processes.
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