Advanced Materials

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Nuclear Forensics


Analytical data sets quantified using trace clean chemistry protocols and high precision methodologies are essential for investigations in the growing fields of nuclear forensics and nuclear archeology. These data sets must meet stringent quality criteria to allow for high confidence interpretations of the results to support the needs of national and international security agencies responsible for the non-proliferation of the world’s nuclear materials. ORNL’s rich history in the field of elemental and isotopic mass spectrometry based in the Chemical Sciences Division, is used to set the standard for quantifying bulk to ultra-trace isotopic signatures in these materials and lead to the development of novel techniques employing high precision isotope ratio measurements down to the lowest levels of detection possible.

In the fields of nuclear forensics and nuclear archeology a major research initiative is to develop novel analytical techniques employing our state-of-the-art clean room, instrumentation and chemistry facilities. Our suite of instruments includes the most advanced mass spectrometer (MS), including three Thermo Scientific Neptune multi-channel, high-resolution, inductively-coupled plasma MS instruments (MC-HR-ICPMS), a Thermo Scientific Triton multi-channel thermal ionization MS (MC-TIMS), an Element2 HR-ICPMS, and the latest advancement in quadrapole measurement capability--Thermo Scientific’s iCAPQ ICPMS. Exploring the science of chemical separations and high precision measurement techniques employing Isotope Dilution Mass Spectrometry (IDMS) will lead to elemental and isotopic measurement capabilities above those currently being performed today.  Current research includes the development of HPLC separation techniques to isolate and purify a comprehensive listing of trace impurity elements in uranium materials with the goal to quantify each using high precision IDMS techniques.

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