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Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis

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Contact details

Blaauw, Menno Dr.
Applied Sciences (TNW), Radiation, Radionuclides & Reactors
Mekelweg 15, 2629 JB Delft
Tel : +31 (0)15 27 83528
E-mail : M.Blaauw@TUDelft.nl
Website : Open website

General Information


Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis


Laboratory for INAAReactor Institute DelftMekelweg 152629 JB DelftThe Netherlands

Key words:

trace elements, elemental analysis, Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis

Measured quantity:

Neutron Activation Analysis is a method of qualitative and quantitative elementanalysis, in which the sample material is irradiated with neutrons in a nuclear reactor. In this process, stable isotopes are converted into radioactive isotopes. While these isotopes decay, having half lifes varying from seconds to years, they are emitting different kinds of electromagnetic radiation, among which gamma radiation. This gamma radiation is measured with semi-conductor gamma-ray spectrometers. Each radionuclide emits gamma radiation of a certain wavelength or energy. So when you have a peak in your gamma-spectrum at a certain energy, you can determine with which element it corresponds. The peak area gives information about the amount of this element present in the sample.

Main application:

I.N.A.A. is short for "Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis", an analysis technique capable of determining many elements at the same time at very low levels.

Instrument specification

To give an idea of the sensitivity of INAA, a few examples of frequently asked elements in different materials are listed below. All limits are based on ± 200 mg of sample material

Polymer material

Element Det. lim. (mg/kg) Element Det. lim. (mg/kg)
As 0.0056 Ba 1.8
Br 0.096 Cd 0.060
Co 0.027 Cr 4.6
Hg 0.044 Ni 3.4
Sb 0.0004 Se 0.079
Sn 1.7 Zn 2.5

Geologic material

Element Det. lim. (mg/kg) Element Det. lim. (mg/kg)
La 0.58 Yb 0.19
Ce 1.4 Lu 0.032
Nd 12 Hf 0.15
Sm 0.042 Ta 0.58
Eu 0.063 Th 0.12
Tb 0.16 U 0.36

Plant material

Element Det. lim. (mg/kg) Element Det. lim. (mg/kg)
Cl 49 Cu 10
Al 1.2 Fe 41
Mg 160 Zn 2.3
Mn 0.63 Se 0.32
K 42 Sr 22
Na 0.50 Mo 1.1