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Nuclear Security

Highly Precise Isotopic Measurements Using Laser Ablation ICP-TOFMS for Nuclear Security Applications


Nuclear Security

Nuclear energy and research facilities are subject to strict safety monitoring protocols, both for procedural security, but also for control of international treaties on the use and proliferation of the involved materials. The sampling strategy for nuclear safeguarding supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency involves collecting particulate matter samples from surfaces. The collected samples contain a large variety of particles from different origins and range in size range from nm to µm.  Elements of interest (actinides) in collected samples need to be identified and their isotopic composition determined with high precision. The minimal sample size prohibits solution analyses, and the varied size and unknown chemical nature of the particles makes them unsuitable for single particle analysis in solution mode.

As demonstrated in published research (Ronzani et al., 2018), the combination of laser ablation sampling of the collected particles and the icpTOF mass spectrometer for quasi-simultaneous measurement of all isotopes allows for direct isotopic analysis of the short transient signals from each individual particle. Natural, artificial, and standard material particles with U isotopic abundances spanning several orders of magnitude can be distinguished and the isotopic ratios determined with high precision.


  • LA-ICP-TOFMS Analysis of Uranium-Bearing Particles Using the icpTOF

    • Laser-ablation sampling of single particleshigh spatial resolution, speed, and minimal sample preparation. 
    • Quasi-simultaneous measurement of all isotopes of interest, precision approaches statistical limits. 
    • High time resolution, high dynamic range
    • Linear signal response


    Isotopic ratio plot of a particle mixture of two standard materials (white circles), compared to certified values (black squares).  From: Ronzani, A.-L. et al. (2018) ‘Capabilities of laser ablation – ICP-TOF-MS coupling for isotopic analysis of individual uranium micrometric particles’, Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry. The Royal Society of Chemistry, 33(11), pp. 1892–1902. DOI: 10.1039/C8JA00241J .

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