A Priori Method of Using Photon Activation Analysis to Determine Unknown Trace Element Concentrations in Environmental Samples and Standards

Jaromy Green
Department of Physics
Idaho State University

Photon activation analysis can be used to determine trace elemental concentration values in environmental and biological samples, historical and cultural artifacts, and NIST standard samples.  Unlike other methods that require the destruction of part or all of the sample to determine the elemental concentrations, photon activation analysis is considered to be non-destructive, since a sample can be analyzed and returned to its owner without destroying or visually harming it. 

In the process of using photon activation analysis, unknown samples occasionally produce spectral peaks that have no corresponding peak in the NIST standard to compare with.  Other times, peaks show up in the NIST sample that were not reported.  As a way to extract additional concentration information from these spectral peaks, a new method was developed that inferred unreported concentration amounts in the NIST standard by using scaling parameters and the appropriate known quantities within the NIST standard itself.