Submicron hard X-ray fluorescence imaging of synthetic elements

Mark P. Jensen*, Baikuntha P. Aryal, Drew Gorman-Lewis, Tatjana Paunesku, Barry Lai, Stefan Vogt, Gayle E. Woloschak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM) using hard X-rays focused into sub-micron spots is a powerful technique for elemental quantification and mapping, as well as microspectroscopic measurements such as μ-XANES (X-ray absorption near edge structure). We have used XFM to image and simultaneously quantify the transuranic element plutonium at the L 3 or L 2-edge as well as Th and lighter biologically essential elements in individual rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cells after exposure to the long-lived plutonium isotope 242Pu. Elemental maps demonstrate that plutonium localizes principally in the cytoplasm of the cells and avoids the cell nucleus, which is marked by the highest concentrations of phosphorus and zinc, under the conditions of our experiments. The minimum detection limit under typical acquisition conditions with an incident X-ray energy of 18keV for an average 202μm 2 cell is 1.4fg Pu or 2.9×10 -20molesPuμm -2, which is similar to the detection limit of K-edge XFM of transition metals at 10keV. Copper electron microscopy grids were used to avoid interference from gold X-ray emissions, but traces of strontium present in naturally occurring calcium can still interfere with plutonium detection using its L α X-ray emission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-28
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
StatePublished - Apr 13 2012


  • Actinide
  • Chemical imaging
  • Plutonium
  • X-ray absorption near edge structure
  • X-ray fluorescence microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy

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