activation analysis

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ac·ti·va·tion a·nal·y·sis

the identification and quantification of unknown elements from their characteristic emissions and decay constants after they have been made radioactive by exposure to neutron or charged particle radiation.
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neutron activation analysis

A method for identifying and measuring the concentrations of the chemical elements in a large and complex sample of material.

A sample is rendered radioactive by bombarding it with neutrons, charged particles or gamma rays, making the nuclei of the different elements unstable and radioactive, and putting them in a higher energy state. Each of the now-radioactive isotopes in the sample gives off a characteristic signature (e.g., alpha particles, gamma rays), which indicates the type and concentration of the elements in the sample.
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