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The search for the right analytical technique for a particular element or elements is an ongoing challenge to an analytical chemist. The choice of a method is based on the concentration level of the analyte element, the matrix, the accuracy, the precision and speed desired, and in many cases, the economics involved. Thanks to many zealous workers, there are volumes of procedures to choose from. Oftentimes the concentration level and the matrix involved narrow down the choice to a few or none. Modification of existing analytical procedures is commonplace. When the analyte element or elements exist in trace quantities, the matrix effect plays an even bigger role, and the applicable analytical procedures are very limited.
This paper is essentially a comparison of analytical techniques available for trace analysis of metallic constituents of metals, alloys, and geological samples. The detection limit, accuracy, precision, and speed of analysis are discussed. The review centers on bulk analysis. The microanalysis, or in situ, techniques are not explored. The critique covers light absorption, atomic absorption, atomic fluorescence, and X-ray fluorescence spectrometric methods and activation analysis. The field of trace analysis for metals is currently dominated by atomic absorption procedures, particularly those employing electrothermal atomization. The plasmas, particularly inductively coupled plasmas, have demonstrated an explosive growth over the last 5 years. Utilization in analytical techniques is increasing exponentially, particularly in the areas of atomic emission and atomic fluorescence.
metallic trace constituents, detection limits, precision, light absorption spectrometry, flame atomic absorption, electrothermal atomization atomic absorption, graphite furnace, mercury cold-vapor determination, hydride generation procedure, atomic fluorescence, X-ray fluorescence, atomic emission, activation analysis, excitation sources, metals, analytical technique
Research and development group supervisor, IMCO Services, Houston, Texas