, Volume 296, Issue 3, pp 1303-1310

Surface cleaning techniques: ultra-trace ICP-MS sample preparation and assay of HDPE

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Abstract

The world’s most sensitive radiation detection and assay systems depend upon ultra-low-background (ULB) materials to reduce unwanted radiological backgrounds. In this study, we evaluate methods to clean HDPE, a material of interest to ULB systems and the means to provide rapid assay of surface and bulk contamination. ULB-level material and ultra-trace-level detection of actinide elements is difficult to attain, due to the introduction of contamination from sample preparation equipment such as pipette tips, sample vials, forceps, etc and airborne particulate. To date, literature available on the cleaning of such polymeric materials and equipment for ULB applications and ultra-trace analyses is limited. For these reasons, a study has been performed to identify an effective way to remove surface contamination from polymers in an effort to provide improved instrumental detection limits. Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy was utilized to assess the effectiveness of a variety of leachate solutions for removal of inorganic uranium and thorium surface contamination from polymers, specifically high density polyethylene (HDPE). Leaching procedures for HDPE were tested to optimize contaminant removal of thorium and uranium. Calibration curves for thorium and uranium ranged from 15 ppq (fg/mL) to 1 ppt (pg/mL). Detection limits were calculated at 6 ppq for uranium and 7 ppq for thorium. Results showed the most effective leaching reagent to be clean 6 M nitric acid for 72 h exposures. Contamination levels for uranium and thorium found in the leachate solutions were significant for ultra-low-level radiation detection applications.