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Monitoring Uranium, Hydrogen, and Lithium and Their Isotopes Using a Compact Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) Probe and High-Resolution Spectrometer

Volume 66, Number 3 (March 2011) Page 250-261

DAVID A. CREMERS*, ALAN BEDDINGFIELD, ROBERT SMITHWICK, ROSEMARIE C. CHINNI, C. RANDY JONES, BURT BEARDSLEY, and LARRY KARCH


The development of field-deployable instruments to monitor radiological, nuclear, and explosive (RNE) threats is of current interest for a number of assessment needs such as the on-site screening of suspect facilities and nuclear forensics. The presence of uranium and plutonium and radiological materials can be determined through monitoring the elemental emission spectrum using relatively low-resolution spectrometers. In addition, uranium compounds, explosives, and chemicals used in nuclear fuel processing (e.g., tributyl-phosphate) can be identified by applying chemometric analysis to the laser-induced breakdown (LIBS) spectrum recorded by these spectrometers. For nuclear forensic applications, however, isotopes of U and Pu and other elements (e.g., H and Li) must also be determined, requiring higher resolution spectrometers given the small magnitude of the isotope shifts for some of these elements (e.g., 25 pm for U and 13 pm for Pu). High-resolution spectrometers will be preferred for several reasons but these must fit into realistic field-based analysis scenarios. To address the need for field instrumentation, we evaluated a previously developed field-deployable hand-held LIBS interrogation probe combined with two relatively new high-resolution spectrometers (λ/Δλ ∼ 75 000 and ∼44 000) that have the potential to meet field-based analysis needs. These spectrometers are significantly smaller and lighter in weight than those previously used for isotopic analysis and one unit can provide simultaneous wide spectral coverage and high resolution in a relatively small package. The LIBS interrogation probe was developed initially for use with low resolution compact spectrometers in a person-portable backpack LIBS instrument. Here we present the results of an evaluation of the LIBS probe combined with a high-resolution spectrometer and demonstrate rapid detection of isotopes of uranium and hydrogen and highly enriched samples of 6Li and 7Li.

Index Headings: Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy; LIBS; Uranium isotopes; Deuterium; Lithium isotopes; High-resolution spectrometer; Echelle spectrometer.