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Characterization of Materials

Characterization of materials from simple confirmation of a specified material to identification and complete characterization of total unknowns.

Inorganic Materials Characterization

Kinectrics has comprehensive inorganic capabilities. Qualitative identification in the characterization of materials is performed by energy-dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) and covers from Na to U.

Complete elemental characterization (most of the elements—including isotopic information—of the periodic table, except for F and gases) including quantitation, is conducted via inductively-coupled plasma atomic emission and mass spectrometry (ICPAES and ICPMS).

A variety of sample introduction methods, including laser ablation and high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) not only deal with varied matrices, but also provide chemical speciation such as the separation of As(iii) and As(v). Water-soluble species may be further characterized as to the anions present (such as fluoride, chloride, nitrate, sulphate) by ion chromatography.

Phase identification is possible through X-ray diffraction (XRD) which is applicable to any crystalline (on a microscopic scale) material, even for radioactive samples. Thus, for example, materials characterization of various iron oxide species such as magnetite, goethite, hematite provides valuable information about the historical environment of the sample.

Organic Materials

Organic materials are often quantitated using gas chromatography (GC). This process can be combined with mass spectrometry making it particularly useful for the identification of unknowns.

Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy—in use at Kinectrics for several decades—is particularly useful for the identification of polymeric materials. These materials include rubbers and other elastomers which are widely used components in many instruments, devices and machinery, from gaskets to major components.

A Recent Project

A recent Kinectrics materials characterization project involved the identification of unusual deposits in a moderator strainer.

Granular deposits were found in the filters used in-line on the moderator system of a nuclear reactor. Because this material did not resemble normal corrosion products, identification of the material was considered critical.

Materials were characterized by examining their radiochemical characteristics, visual appearance under microscopic examination and component identification via FTIR and GC-MS. This investigation showed that the material was oil which had ingressed into the moderator system via a valve failure and which had been subsequently polymerized by radiolysis. Activity was due to a trapped corrosion product which was activated as normal.