Rapid, accurate and reliable methods of elemental analysis are essential in industrial processes using solid materials -metallic (including 'hard-metals') and non-metallic (ceramics, etc) -for quality control during the initial production, for the testing of protective layers (metallic coatings, paints, lacquers etc) and for the study of corrosion and ageing. Traces and ultra-traces of some elements in a solid can significantly influence the mechanical, physical, electrical, thermal and other properties of new 'high tech' materials and therefore the analytical technique needs to be very sensitive and capable of dealing with a large number of elements. For the next generation of 'high tech' materials, analytical techniques will be needed to measure ever decreasing concentrations of an increasing number of elements in ever more complex materials, including non-conductors.
Optical emission spectroscopy (OES) and high and low resolution mass spectrometry (MS) are well established techniques for spectrochemical analysis. Used in conjunction with glow discharge sources, they permit the direct analysis of metallic samples. If radio frequency powered sources are used, non conducting materials can also be analyzed. In operation, a specified area of the sample, often 4 or 8 mm diameter, is steadily eroded, so a depth profile analysis of the sample can be made. With emission spectroscopy, limits of detection are in the ug/g (ppm) range, while with mass spectrometry, the detection limits can reach the ng/g (ppb) range. However, there is always a need for improved limits of detection, so improvements to the sources are always desirable. These can be made on an empirical basis, or mathematical modelling of the source can be made, in order to optimize the design for maximum line intensity or ion output.
Glow discharge spectrometry is employed in industrial and research laboratories through Europe, and there is already considerable cooperation on calibration and development, but this is divided over a large number of groups, with a marked division between those using optical emission spectroscopy and those using mass spectrometry. We wish to set up a Thematic Network with the overall objective of assisting in the further development of analytical methods using Glow Discharge Sources for both Optical Emission Spectroscopy (OES) and Mass Spectrometry (MS) including an extension of their range of applications. This would be achieved by facilitating a much closer exchange of information and expertise, and identifying topics where additional research and development is required.