MS101 Modern Methods in Alpha Spectrometry

A Short Course in Practical Methods

The field of alpha spectrometry has seen some significant developments in recent years, both in the area of sample preparation as well as new system designs, which provide for more efficient counting and analysis. This 5-day course will begin with a review of the basics of alpha spectrometry and then present a detailed overview of some of the most useful innovations for the analyst. Real-world examples will be emphasized throughout and a "hands-on" approach will be emphasized with about 60-70% laboratory sessions. Recent groups included not only students from the U.S., but also international participants. Topics will include:

  • Sources and distribution of radioactive contamination of the environment
  • Basics of sample preparation for alpha spectrometry
  • New approaches to sample preparation
  • Redox chemistry of the actinides (separating actinides by solution chemistry)
  • Use of new types of ion exchange and extraction chromatographic resins
  • Source preparation techniques by electro deposition and micro precipitation techniques
  • Some specific method descriptions including screening procedures
  • Basics of alpha radiation, detectors, sample counting
  • Recommended QA/QC practices
  • Energy and efficiency calibration
  • Prevention of recoil contamination
  • Background and reagent blank corrections
  • Nuclide activity calculations (calculations for U, Th, Pu, Am analysis)
  • Propagation of counting errors, MDA’s
The course has been designed so that students new to alpha spectrometry will benefit from the fundamentals being presented while the more experienced analysts will gain from exposure to a review as well as the presentation of new and developing techniques. Students will receive classroom instruction and will work in small groups in the laboratory under close supervision with instructor:

Dr. Bill Burnett
Environmental Radioactivity Measurement Facility
Department of Oceanography
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306

List of Tentative Laboratory Experiments:

Standard Experiments
  1. Review of counting procedures-1 (energy calibration, pulser checks, etc.)
  2. Review of counting procedures-2 (recoil prevention, efficiency, geometry considerations)
  3. Calculation of theoretical counting geometries
  4. Methods of coprecipitation for actinide analyses
  5. U, Th, and Pu in soil via ion exchange procedures
  6. Screening analysis for actinides in water via extraction chromatography
  7. Preparation of counting sources by fluoride microprecipitation/filtration
  8. Electrodeposition of sources and determination of electrodeposition rates
  9. Calculation of sample activities, propagation of counting errors
Additional Experiments (By Request)
  1. Separation of U, Am, Pu from air filters via extraction chromatography
  2. Radium Isotopes in water samples via alpha spectrometry