Improving the utility of LA-ICP-MS for isotope ratio analyses of single particles with application to uranium oxide
2016-06-08T11:20:56Z (GMT) by
The determination of the isotopic composition of single uranium oxide particles, size 0.3-2 μm, for nuclear safeguards is current performed by either thermal ionisation mass spectrometry (TIMS) or Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS). Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), a well-established analytical technique for determining the isotopic composition of solid materials, has the potential to be another method by which single uranium oxide particles can be analysed, complementing established protocol, but requires optimisation. In this study the ability of LA-ICP-MS to determine the isotopic composition, principally 234U/238U, 235U/238U and 236U/238U, of glass reference materials and sub-micron uranium oxide particles is investigated. To achieve the best detection efficiency a prototype high-speed ablation cell and injector design, designed previously at Loughborough University, was coupled to a high efficiency multi collector (MC-) ICP-MS. As a result an increase in signal-to-noise ratio and a measured detection efficiency of 5-7% was achieved for a LA-MC-ICP-MS system. The capability of the LA-MC-ICP-MS system, for the determination of the uranium isotopic composition of single particles was compared to a more established low-volume ablation cell. A source of additional uncertainty, blind time arising from incompatibilities with the mixed detector array of the MC-ICP-MS was identified. The impact of the additional uncertainty on isotope ratio analysis was modeled and a method developed to filter out affected data. LA-ICP-MS and LA-MC-ICP-MS were used to successfully determine the uranium isotopic compositions of sub-micron uranium oxide particles, of a known certified composition. A sample planchet containing particles of two distinct isotopic compositions was resolved. The utility of three data evaluation strategies to determine the isotopic composition of single uranium oxide particles was investigated. The necessity and advantages of calculating isotope ratios using the geometric mean is demonstrated, which has application for isotope ratio analysis performed on all forms of mass spectrometry. A novel approach to prepare particulate samples for laser ablation analysis, cytocentrifugation, is described. By using as the solvent, a mixture of nail polish and acetone, dispersed particles are held in a strong film layer thin enough to allow embedded particles to be imaged by SEM-EDX. A sample of uranium oxide particles in an environmental matrix prepared using cytocentrifugation is analysed by LA-MC-ICP-MS and their isotopic composition resolved.