Fully automated dissolution and separation methods for inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry rock analysis. Application to the determination of rare earth elements. Plenary lecture
In rock analysis laboratories, sample preparation is a serious problem, or even an enormous bottleneck. Because this laboratory is production-oriented, this problem was attacked by automating progressively, different steps in rock analysis for major, minor and trace elements. This effort has been considerably eased by the fact that all sample preparation schemes in this laboratory for the past three decades have been based on an initial lithium borate fusion of rock samples and all analytical methods based on multi-element atomic emission spectrometry, with switch-over from solid analysis by arc/spark excitation to solution analysis by plasma excitation in 1974. The sample preparation steps which have been automated are: weighing of samples and fluxes, lithium borate fusion, dissolution and dilution of fusion products and ion-exchange separation of difficult trace elements such as rare earth elements (REE). During 1985 and 1986, these different unit operations have been assembled together as peripheral units in the form of a workstation, called LabRobStation. A travelling robot is the master of LabRobStation, with all peripheral units at its reach in 10 m2 workspace. As an example of real application, the automated determination of REE, based on more than 8000 samples analysed during 1982 and 1986, is presented.