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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X


LOTTER, S.J.; PURCELL, W.  and  NEL, J.T.. Glow discharge optical emission spectroscopy: A general overview with regard to nuclear materials. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2015, vol.115, n.10, pp.966-971. ISSN 2411-9717.

Glow discharge optical emission spectroscopy (GD-OES) is an analytical technique used in the analysis of solid, conducting materials. Though primarily of interest as a depth profiling technique on samples with varying layers of both conducting and non-conducting materials, it is also capable of rapid bulk analysis of homogenous, solid samples. GD-OES combines the advantages of ICP-OES (wide detection range, speed, and lack of interferences) with the solid sampling of XRF techniques. This allows the analyst to not only quantify the elemental composition of a sample, but to evaluate it in terms of homogeneity with depth, a field in which auger electron spectroscopy (AES) and secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) have traditionally been the primary techniques. Although GD-OES does not replace these useful techniques, it does offer various advantages over them, making it an excellent complementary analytical tool. In GD-OES analysis, a low-pressure glow discharge plasma is generated with the sample material acting as a cathode, accelerating the cations in the plasma towards the sample surface. This bombardment causes the sample material to 'sputter', essentially knocking free atoms or molecules of analyte material, which are then drawn into the plasma where they are excited. The light emitted by this excitation is then diffracted to separate the wavelengths emitted by the specific elements and detected by a spectrophotometer. The intensity of the signal is directly proportional to the quantity of analyte element present in the sample, allowing simple calibration and quantitative determination of the elements. Technological improvements made in the past twenty years or so have significantly increased the usefulness of GD-OES for surface analysis. Faster plasma stabilization and start-up allow for the quantification of surface layers as thin as 1 nm. Sputter rates have been accurately measured for many common materials, allowing them to be built into software libraries in the instrument's control software. This dramatically expands the usefulness of this software and the ease of performing analyses. GD-OES analysis of nuclear materials allows for the rapid determination of the elemental composition without the requirement of initial dissolution. The thickness of any corrosion layers on nuclear materials can also be determined.

Keywords : glow discharge optical emission spectrometry; GD-OES; nuclear materials.

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