HIGH TECHNOLOGY FOR THE PUBLIC - GOLD-TESTER IN THE FINNISH SCIENCE CENTRE, HEUREKA

One important general responsibility of the University is to promote science in society generally. In this relation, a project to construct an instrument for elemental analysis to study visitors' golden jewelry was started in collaboration with the Finnish Science Centre, Heureka, and the high technology company Quantronics. The project was funded via the roof organization of the European Science Centres. In 1997 the first complete instrument was finished and installed at Heureka for public use. The exhibition device turned out to be an immediate success and at present about two thousand specimens are analyzed monthly.

The novel instrument is capable of analyzing the elemental content of an unknown specimen in one minute without any prior knowledge, but not for the lightest elements. It is based on fluorescence analysis using the fundamental parameters approach developed at the X-ray laboratory. The instrument is easy to operate needing only one push of a button yet representing the state-of-the-art instrumentation technique and data analysis methods. The radiation detector, for example, is similar to one used in the latest Mars NASA Pathfinder voyager. Work to improve the detection accuracy to meet professional standards by gold manufacturers is in development.