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Chapter 9 | Developments in Instrumentation for Routine Coal and Coke Analysis
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Over the past three decades there have been several new ASTM Standard Test Methods developed that introduced new analytical instrumentation into the area of routine coal and coke analysis. Instrumentation examples include X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF); inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES); inductively coupled plasma-mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS); graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (GFAAS); macro-thermogravimetric analyzer (macro-TGA); and automated elemental analyzers for carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen, mercury, arsenic, selenium, and chlorine. In addition, there have been computer-based automatic controllers and recorders developed for several types of instrumentation. Examples include calorimeters, plastometers, and dilatometers.Starting in the 1980s and continuing through to the present, perhaps the most significant development in analytical instrumentation has been the implementation of computer control of instruments. The interfacing of a computer, even as primitive as it was in the 1980s, with an analytical instrument completely changed the manner in which laboratory measurement data were acquired. At first, the fact that measurements could be made rapidly and repeatedly with computer-controlled instrumentation allowed the use of less precise instruments to acquire many data that could be massaged and summarized to yield precise results. The observation that “the precision of a mean value is inversely proportional to the square root of the number of measurements that yield the value” holds true for this measurement concept. This is the principle of operation of Fourier-transform and signal averaging techniques in analytical instrumentation.The development of computer-controlled instrumentation, sometimes using less precise hardware to deliver precise measurements through repetitive measurements and signal averaging techniques, reduced the cost of analytical instrumentation. This led to more instrumentation and subsequently to many more improvements in the instrumentation. The very successful introduction of computer-controlled instrumentation changed the course of data gathering in most coal and fuel labo ratories. Instruments that could deliver repetitive measurements coupled with autosampling attachments allowed even more unassisted data collection. Gradually, this computer-controlled instrumentation has been included in the development and refinement of ASTM International standard methods.