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RESEARCH PROJECT ZEBRA

Non-destructive elemental analysis of raw materials and contaminated sites

HEAVY METALS IN SOIL, WATER AND FOOD

The federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia has been shaped by the mining and chemical industry as hardly as any other German federal state. Until the 1970s deposits of waste without consideration of the effects on soils and waters were common. These deposits can lead to an accumulation of pollutants in soils, water or the air which is dangerous as well as for humans and the environment. Accumulations in plants and animals enrich these pollutants towards the end of the food chain and thus reach man.

The detection of such contaminants and contamination is far from easy. The analysis of the composition of soil samples, water or food and feed is called environmental analysis. Existing technologies, which are currently applied in environmental analysis, are so far only suitable for analyzing very small samples, or they provide only results on the composition on the surface of the samples. Therefore, AiNT develops a measuring system that is capable of reliably and precisely analyzing heavy metal contents even in large samples.

INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR ENVIROMENTAL ANALYSIS

Within the context of the lead market competition EnergieUmweltwirtschaft.NRW, the federal state NRW is funding innovative developments in the field of environmental technologies with the help of European Union funds. Together with the Chair of Mathematics at the Center for Computational Engineering Science (MathCCES) at RWTH Aachen University, AiNT is implementing the ZEBRA project (German acronym, for “non-destructive elemental analysis of raw materials and contaminated sites”) within this framework.

Within the ZEBRA research project, an innovative measurement system is being developed for environmental and hazardous substance analysis. This measurement system is based on the prompt and delayed gamma neutron activation analysis (P&DGNAA). The project includes the construction and test operation of the measurement system and the development of new analytical methods for determining the mass fractions of all elements of the periodic system.

CONTENTS OF THE R&D PROJECT

The aim of the ZEBRA project is to develop a compact, innovative measuring device, to build it up and to test it experimentally. Within this project we will prove the technical feasibility and economic viability of this technology for environmental analytics.

In a first validation step, different applications in the area of environmental analysis, such as soil samples, animal feed and seed samples or water samples, are tested. We will investigate equivalence with existing analysis methods.

TECHNCAL PROCESS

Non-destructive elemental analysis for environmental and hazardous substances based on P&DGNAA

PHASE 1

The measurement system is compactly designed so that it can be operated in a laboratory. The sample material to be analyzed is introduced via a drawer without the need for an elaborate sample preparation.

PHASE 2

The measurement has started. A neutron generator emits neutrons which enter the sample material. The atomic nuclei in the sample are excited by the neutrons and emit characteristic gamma radiation in the process of deexcitation. This gamma radiation is measured in a detector.

PHASE 3

As the measurement time progresses, more and more gamma radiation is detected. The detector registers the specific energies of the gamma radiation and translates this into a spectrum. Based on the evaluation of the peaks within the spectrum, a qualitative and quantitative element analysis of the sample material can be carried out. The positions of the peaks provide information on which elements are present in the sample. Areas under the peaks allow the deterimnation of the mass fraction of a respective element.


APPLICATION AREAS

The ZEBRA measurement system enables a quick analysis of the elemental composition of samples from a large variety of pplication areas. Non-destructively and without complex sample preparation. The following list gives an overview of the wide range of applications of our measurement system.

SOIL ANALYSIS

ANIMAL FEED ANALYSIS & AGRICULTURAL ANALYSIS

WATER ANALYSIS

HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES IN CHILDREN´S TOYS

METAL AND ALLOY ANALYSIS

HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES IN ELECTRONIC SCRAP

RoHS-CONFORMITY FOR THE PRODUCTION OF ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS

ANALYSIS OF CONCRETE SAMPLES AND DETERMINATION OF THE WATER/CEMENT-RATIO

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