Instrumental Chemistry

Including Ultra Trace Element Analysis

Instrumental Chemistry, also called Instrumental Analysis or Instrumental Chemical Analysis, can provide valuable information about the elemental concentration and moisture content of a test sample. Laboratory Testing Inc. in the Philadelphia, PA (USA) area specializes in the analysis of Metallic Materials. Complete elemental analysis with quantitative and qualitative data is offered, including ultra trace element analysis.

Instrumental chemistry ICP-MSInstrumental analysis provides qualitative results by identifying individual elements or groupings of elements in the sample. Quantitative information is provided by determining the amount of each included element. Trace element analysis is performed by ICP spectrometers with detection limits in the “parts per trillion” range for some elements.

Instrumental Chemistry Applications

Customers request our instrumental chemistry services for a variety of reasons unique to their business needs. Most often it is to verify material conformance to a standard or specification such as ASME, MIL and ASTM or to obtain key information about their material samples for choosing raw materials or confirming orders from a supplier. Our services can identify alloys, detect impurities, identify material, determine moisture content in flux coated wire, ores, ferroalloys and chemical samples and more.

Variety of Analysis Methods

ICP analysisHighly sophisticated and sensitive instruments with automated and computerized processing and reporting of results are used at Lab Testing to perform the following variety of instrumental analysis techniques:

  • Atomic Emission Spectroscopy
  • ICP Analysis (ICP-MS, ICP-AES)
  • PMI Testing
  • Combustion Furnace Sulfur & Carbon Analysis
  • Inert Gas Fusion (Oxygen, Hydrogen & Nitrogen Determination)
  • Moisture Analysis
  • FTIR Analysis

Our chemists will choose the most appropriate instrumental analysis method, if not specified. Their selection often depends on the type of sample, quantity of material available for analysis, the desired results and cost constraints.

Test Methods/SpecificationsAES Instrumental Analysis

  • AMS 4081
  • AMS 4083
  • ASME Sect. IX
  • ASTM A751
  • ASTM B328
  • ASTM D1976
  • ASTM E1019
  • ASTM E1086
  • ASTM E1251
  • ASTM E1252
  • ASTM E1409
  • ASTM E1447
  • ASTM E1476
  • ASTM E1508
  • ASTM E1613
  • ASTM E415
  • AWS A4.4 M
  • EB 4906 Rev A
  • MIL Specifications

Providing Samples for Instrumental Analysis

To save time and money and assure that your results are as accurate as possible, we ask customers to provide us with as much information as possible about samples submitted for instrumental chemical analysis. If the following information is available, please include it on your purchase order or with your test sample. The information will help us choose the most appropriate and cost-effective testing methods, and may eliminate the need to run preliminary tests that could delay results and increase costs.

Sample Composition

When we are asked to analyze only one component of an alloy, without knowing the approximate composition of the sample, it is possible that errors could result due to unknown interference between elements. With information about the composition, our chemists can perform elemental analysis using an instrumental chemistry method that will avoid having an element interference with others in the alloy.

Standards & Specifications

When testing is performed to determine if a sample conforms to a standard or specification (e.g. ASME, ASTM, MIL), it is important to know the alloy or grade that is being tested because some standards refer to more than one alloy or grade.

To ensure that we receive an adequate sample size to perform the required instrumental analysis, we provide the following guidelines:

Sample Size

  • AES solid samples – 1/2” thick and 2” x 2” square
  • Analysis by Inert Gas Fusion method –  nitrogen and oxygen (minimum of 1½ grams); hydrogen (minimum of 2 grams)
  • Analysis by Combustion method – carbon and sulfur (minimum of 2 grams)
  • ICP Analysis – chips and samples too small for AES (minimum of 5 grams); powders (minimum weight of 20 grams but size may vary)

Note: For comparison, a dime weighs about 2½ grams and a nickel weighs about 5 grams.

Contact us to discuss your samples and instrumental analysis needs.

The Instrumental Chemistry Processes

Atomic Emission Spectroscopy

Atomic Emission Spectroscopy (AES) is one of the most useful analytical chemistry techniques for direct analysis of elemental composition in solid metal samples. LTI’s AES spectrometers can analyze all common elements in metal and alloy samples, including soft metals such as tin, lead and zinc. Both qualitative and quantitative information can be reported. Read more about the AES Analysis process.

ICP Analysis

Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) Atomic Emission Spectroscopy (AES) and Mass Spectrometry (MS) analyses are performed at LTI with fully computerized, top-of-the-line spectrometers. ICP-AES is a technique that can detect most of the elements in the periodic table and can determine elemental concentrations of trace to major. Reliable results can be obtained for about 70 elements with detection limits in the parts per billion range. The ICP-MS can determine a range of metals and several non-metals and is highly sensitive and capable of trace element analysis on multiple elements, often at the parts-per-trillion level. Read more about these ICP Analysis processes.

Positive Material Identification

Positive Material Identification or PMI Testing is performed at LTI by a nondestructive technique called portable X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy. The equipment provides direct analysis of solid metal samples and thin metal films for major elements, and can be used for RoHS screening of metallic and non-metallic samples.

An X-ray tube is used to irradiate the sample with a primary beam of X-rays. Some of the X-rays are absorbed by the sample elements causing excitation, then fluorescence occurs as X-rays are emitted with an energy that is characteristic of the element from which it was emitted. The fluorescence X-rays are collimated and directed to an X-ray detector. The energy of each X-ray and number of X-rays at each energy level are recorded. The intensities of these X-rays are compared to values for known standards for positive material identification of the unknown specimen and semi-quantitative information.

Combustion Method for Sulfur and Carbon Analysis

High temperature combustion is used for sulfur and carbon analysis to determine their content in a variety of metal and inorganic materials. The test begins by heating a sample in a high-temperature furnace which is flooded with oxygen, causing the combustion of the carbon and sulfur in the sample. The gases are passed through a series of traps, absorbers and converters to remove interfering elements and to ensure the gases have the proper structure for detection.

Infrared detection is used to determine the concentration of the carbon or sulfur. The infrared absorption detector measures the absorption of the infrared wavelengths characteristic of carbon and sulfur. The amount of energy absorbed is related to the amount of the carbon or sulfur in the test sample.Lower detection limits for carbon range from 0.1 to 10 parts per-million with upper detection limits of 2.5 – 3.5 %. Lower detection limits for sulfur range from 1. to 50 parts per-million with upper detection limits of 0.2 – 2.5 %.

Inert Gas Fusion

Inert gas fusion is a quantitative instrumental chemistry technique for determining the concentrations of gases (nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen) in ferrous and nonferrous materials. These gases are found in materials as a result of melting processes and subsequent hot and cold working methods. Managing the gas contents at low levels minimizes their adverse effects on the materials’ mechanical properties.

The inert gas method heats the sample to a molten state in a fusion furnace with an inert gas atmosphere and reverses the bonding between the gases and metals, causing the dissociation of the gases. The fusion gases are separated and carried to a detector. An infrared detection system is used at LTI to detect oxygen, and a thermo-conductivity system is used to detect nitrogen and hydrogen.

Moisture Analysis

Moisture analysis reveals the percentage of moisture in a wide variety of inorganic materials including welding flux, ores, ferroalloys and chemical samples. The analyzer uses radio frequency to heat the sample to the specified temperature in order to separate the moisture from the rest of the sample. An infrared detection process quantifies the moisture as compared to a reference material. Moisture is stated as a percentage of the total weight. The analysis is valuable in preventing weld rejection due to porosity and in informing material buyers about the percentage of weight attributed to moisture.

FTIR Analysis

FTIR Analysis or FTIR Spectroscopy can identify organic, polymeric, and some inorganic materials in solid, liquid and powder samples. This method can assess purity, reveal the molecular structure of the sample and identify additives, contaminants and basic type of material if unknown.

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