Improved Instrument for Analysis of Nuclear Materials with Heterogeneous Isotopic Composition

Period of Performance: 07/31/2017 - 07/30/2019


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Applied Spectra, Inc.
46665 Fremont Blvd Array
Fremont, CA 94538
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


One of the gravest threats the United States and the international community face is the possibility that terrorists or rogue nations will acquire nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. Even worse is the possibility that some type of device is detonated. The ability to know if material is being enriched or the identification of device debris relies significantly on chemical analysis; what is the elemental and isotopic content of a material. However, current analysis technologies are time consuming and laborious, requiring days to weeks to report results. Advanced technologies for rapid analysis of elemental and isotopic signatures are needed to deter the proliferation of nuclear weapons and safeguard our world. Combine three laser-based analytical laser sampling technologies into a Triple Tandem platform for rapid, precise analysis, increased throughput, reduced influence of isobaric interferences, and ability to measure any elements and isotopic signatures in heterogeneous materials. This project will advance technology for elemental and isotopic analysis using laser ablation sampling with inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) with Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and Laser Ablation Molecular Isotopic Spectroscopy (LAMIS). The Triple-Tandem capability was demonstrated showing improve precision, speed of analysis, and the measurement of light elements and isotopes from heterogeneous materials. The configuration for a prototype instrument to be developed in Phase II was established. The research will develop simultaneous LIBS and LAMIS with LA-ICP-MS for improved measurement precision, expanded light-element/isotope coverage, expanded dynamic range (sensitivity) of analysis, and elemental mapping of heterogeneous materials. Sophisticated data analysis software will be developed and imbedded to provide a user friendly instrument platform. The goal is the fabrication of a commercial instrument for rapid and complete elemental and isotopic analysis. The innovative technology and instrument will provide government and industry with a powerful tool for meassuring every element and isotope in samples without sample preparation. The instrument is a new paradigm in chemical analysis – using a laser for sampling instead of acid solutions – a green technology. Rapid measurements of complex materials addresses safeguards, nonproliferation and nuclear forensics, with widespread commercial applications including biological imaging, geochemical age dating, food safety analysis, environmental remediation and advanced manufacturing. Nuclear Safeguards; nonproliferation; forensics; weaponization; Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry; Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy; Laser ablation molecular isotopic spectrometry; Isotopic Analysis