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  • 1 Florida A&M University Environmental Sciences Institute Tallahassee FL 32307 USA
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Previous studies including the development of methods for the determination of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in cattail using cold neutron prompt gamma activation (CNPGAA) and thermal neutron prompt gamma activation analysis (TNPGAA); evaluation of the precision and accuracy of these methods through the analysis of Standard Reference Materials (SRMs); and comparison of the sensitivity of CNPGAA to TNPGAA have been done in the CNPGAA and TNPGAA facilities at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This paper integrates the findings from all of these prior studies and presents recommendations for the application of CNPGAA and TNPGAA in environmental studies of plants based on synergistic considerations of the effects of neutron energy, matrix factors such as chlorine content, Compton scattering, hydrogen content, sample thickness, and spectral interferences from Cl on the determination of C, N, and P. This paper also provides a new approach that simulates a sensitivity curve for an element of interest (S), which is a function of hydrogen content (X) and sample thickness (Y) as follows: S = aX + bY + c (where a, b, and c are constants). This approach has provided more accurate results from the analysis of SRMs than traditional methods and an opportunity to use models to optimize experimental conditions.