This invention pertains generally to a method for improving the accuracy of particle analysis under conditions of discrete particle loading and particularly to a method for improving signal-to-noise ratio and instrument response in laser spark spectroscopic analysis of particulate emissions. Under conditions of low particle density loading (particles/m.sup.3) resulting from low overall metal concentrations and/or large particle size uniform sampling can not be guaranteed. The present invention discloses a technique for separating laser sparks that arise from sample particles from those that do not; that is, a process for systematically "gating" the instrument response arising from "sampled" particles from those responses which do not, is dislosed as a solution to his problem. The disclosed approach is based on random sampling combined with a conditional analysis of each pulse. A threshold value is determined for the ratio of the intensity of a spectral line for a given element to a baseline region. If the threshold value is exceeded, the pulse is classified as a "hit" and that data is collected and an average spectrum is generated from an arithmetic average of "hits". The true metal concentration is determined from the averaged spectrum.
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT INTEREST
This invention was made with Government support under contract no. DE-AC04-94AL85000 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Sandia Corporation. The Government has certain rights in the invention.