History

Applied Photonics Ltd (APL) was established in August 1998 by Dr Andrew I Whitehouse, a former employee of British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL), who during the 1990s led a small team involved with the development of laser-based materials analysis techniques within the Research & Technology Department at Sellafield.  The principal motivation behind the setting up of the new company was to offer a specialist service to industry in the field of laser spectroscopic remote analysis of materials, in particular Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS).  Business opportunities were believed at that time to exist in the nuclear, steel manufacturing and glass manufacturing industries with an emphasis on remote chemical analysis of hazardous or high-temperature materials.

Since the company's formation, APL has become a world leading supplier of LIBS equipment including both custom-designed and off-the-shelf LIBS systems.  With customers in more than 50 countries, our international client base includes NASA, US Department of Defense, US Department of Energy, UK nuclear industry, UK Ministry of Defence, various blue chip companies, government laboratories, and numerous industrial and university research groups around the world.  In 2006, APL launched its new product range of modular LIBS instruments, which it has continued to develop and expand including the addition in 2013 of a sample chamber suitable for performing LIBS analysis of liquids.  In addition to conducting a wide range of applications of LIBS at various nuclear sites in the UK, the company has also developed and installed hot cell LIBS instruments in operational nuclear facilities in both the Republic of Korea (KAERI, Daejeon City, 2014) and the UK (B13, Sellafield, 2018) where we continue to provide technical and operational support to the operators of the hot cell facility.

APL was the first company to use LIBS inside a nuclear reactor (Hunterston and Hinkley Point AGR nuclear power stations, 1999), the first company to analyse radioactive materials through a lead-glass shield window (Sellafield, 2001) and developed the first commercially-available submersible LIBS probe which has been tested to a depth of 30+ metres in the sea (2002).  We are the only supplier of truly modular LIBS instruments insofar that the user can switch between different sample chambers, lasers and spectrometers, thereby offering a highly versatile and upgradeable LIBS system.  To the best of our knowledge, we are the only commercial organisation to have supplied LIBS equipment for use at a nuclear radiation hot cell facility and which have been certified by the end user as reaching a Technology Readiness Level of TRL 8 (Sellafield, 2018).