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Direct isotopic analysis of solid uranium particulates on cotton swipes by microextraction-ICP-MS...

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Analytica Chimica Acta
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Direct isotope ratio analysis of solid uranium particulates on cotton swipes was achieved using a solution-based microextraction technique, coupled to a quadrupole inductively coupled plasma - mass spectrometer (ICP-MS). This microextraction-ICP-MS methodology provides rapid isotopic analysis which could be applicable to nuclear safeguards measurements. Particulates of uranyl nitrate hexahydrate (UO2(NO3)2·6H2O) and uranyl fluoride (UO2F2) ranging from 6 μm to 40 μm in length were transferred to cotton swipes with a particle manipulator. The microextraction probe then delivers a 5% nitric acid (HNO3) solvent onto the swipe surface to extract the uranium species. The extracted sample is then delivered to the ICP-MS for isotopic determination. The majority of uranium signal (∼99% and ∼94% for UO2(NO3)2·6H2O and UO2F2, respectively) was detected in the first 15 s extraction, while subsequent extractions on the same location had low or no U signal, suggesting near complete removal of the solid uranium compounds from the swipe surface. Ten samples (for each of the uranium compounds), were analyzed for their isotopic composition. For UO2(NO3)2·6H2O, the determined isotope ratios resulted in a % relative difference (% RD) from the referenced isotope ratios of 0.97, 1.0, and 7.3% for 234U/238U, 235U/238U, and 236U/238U, respectively. The % RD of the UO2F2 isotope ratios were 1.9 and 0.60% for 234U/238U and 235U/238U, respectively. The preliminary limits of detection were determined to be 0.002, 0.4, and 60 pg for 234U, 235U and 238U, respectively This work demonstrates that microextraction ICP-MS is a rapid and sensitive method that could directly determine uranium isotope ratios of UO2(NO3)2·6H2O and UO2F2 particulates on cotton swipes.