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Jožef Stefan
Postgraduate School

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Neutron activation analysis – an important analytical tool in environmental research

Professor Borut Smodiš

IPS Lecture Hall, December 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) is an isotope-specific analytical technique for the qualitative and quantitative measurement of the elemental mass. The technique is based upon the conversion of stable atomic nuclei into radioactive nuclei by irradiation with neutrons, and the subsequent measurement of the radiation emitted during the decay of these radioactive nuclei. First, the most important milestones in the method development is presented. The various modes of NAA are elaborated, along with the basic measurement equations and calibrations. Analytical characteristics, strengths and opportunities as well as its weaknesses in comparison with other analytical techniques are discussed.

Due to its complementarity with other methods for trace elements, NAA has always played an important role in environmental analytical chemistry. Samples particularly well suited for NAA compared to other analytical techniques include in particular solid materials that are difficult to bring completely into a solution, are easy to contaminate during preparation of the test portion, are unique and should keep their integrity and solid materials for which other techniques are lacking matrix-matching calibrators. Some typical examples, both from other laboratories, as well as from our own experience, are presented.