An analytical technique that can be used to detect most elements when present in a sample in milligram quantities (or less). In neutron activation analysis the sample is exposed to a flux of thermal neutrons in a nuclear reactor. Some of these neutrons are captured by nuclides in the sample to form nuclides of the same atomic number but a higher mass number. These newly formed nuclides emit gamma radiation, which can be used to identify the element present by means of a gamma-ray spectrometer. Activation analysis has also been employed using charged particles, such as protons or alpha particles.
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