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  • 1 Texas A&M University Center for Trace Characterization, Department of Chemistry 77843-3144 College Station TX (USA)
  • 2 Shell Development Company Westhollow Research Center P.O. Box 1380 77001 Houston TX USA
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A multitude of ion-atom interactions are induced with projectiles of E0.1 MeV/nucleon. Analytical techniques derived from these include particle induced X-ray emission (PIXE), charged particle activation analysis (CPAA), prompt nuclear reactions (PNR), and Rutherford backscattering spectrometry (RBS). Among their features are broad elemental coverage (PIXE), subnanogram sensitivity (PIXE, CPAA), isotopic specificity (CPAA, PNR), and depth resolution (RBS, PNR). A limiting requirement with each technique is the need for high intensity ion beams. Novel approaches seek now to obtain analytical information with very small numbers of bombarding ions. Sample integrity is then maintained; moreover, they can be delivered in a microbeam (diameter 5 mm). A phenomenon which under these conditions provides useful analytical information is the particle induced desorption of molecular fragments. Thus, microscopic chemical analysis can be achieved with a small number (<10,000) of heavy fast projectiles and identification of the species desorbed from the sample surface via time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Experimental work with 84 MeV kr ions indicates the following: (a) high desorption yields can be obtained (>50%); (b) mass spectrometry on microspots (diameter of a few m) is feasible; (c) < 106 atoms can be detected. Further capabilities of ion beams for minute, detailed, and comprehensive chemical characterization remain to be explored.