ASTM E415 Analysis of Carbon and Low-Alloy Steel by Spark Atomic Emission Spectrometry

The ASTM E415 test method addresses the simultaneous detection of 20 alloying and residual elements in carbon and low-alloy steels using spark atomic emission vacuum spectrometry in the mass fraction ranges as shown below:

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    ElementComposition Range, %Applicable Range, Mass Fraction %Quantitative Range, Mass Fraction”
    Aluminum0 to 0.0750.02 to 0.075 
    Arsenic0 to 0.10.05 to 0.1
    Boron0 to 0.0070.002 to 0.007
    Calcium0 to 0.0030.001 to 0.003
    Carbon0 to 1.10.08 to 1.1
    Chromium0 to 2.250.02 to 2.25
    Cobalt0 to 0.180.008 to 0.18
    Copper0 to 0.50.04 to 0.5
    Manganese0 to 2.00.10 to 2.0
    Molybdenum0 to 0.60.03 to 0.6
    Nickel0 to 5.00.02 to 5.0
    Niobium0 to 0.0850.02 to 0.085
    Nitrogen0 to 0.0150.004 to 0.015
    Phosphorous0 to 0.0850.02 to 0.085
    Silicon0 to 1.150.07 to 1.15
    Sulfur0 to 0.0550.01 to 0.055
    Tin0 to 0.0450.01 to 0.045
    Titanium0 to 0.20.004 to 0.2
    Vanadium0 to 0.30.004 to 0.3


    The ASTM E415 is a standard test technique for spark atomic emission spectrometry examination of carbon and low-alloy steel. This test method applies to specimens with a diameter large enough to overlap and seal the bore of the spark stand hole. This test technique covers routine control analysis in iron and steelmaking activities as well as material analysis. It is intended for specimens that have been chill-cast, rolled, or forged. 

    The spectrometric analysis of metals and alloys in this test method is primarily aimed to ensure that such materials meet compositional standards. All users of this test technique are presumed to be analysts capable of completing conventional laboratory operations skillfully and securely.

    Test Procedure:

    A capacitor discharge is created between the flat, ground surface of the disc specimen and a conically shaped electrode in accordance with the ASTM E415 test protocol. The discharge is stopped at a predetermined intensity time integral of one of the iron lines, or at a predetermined time, and the relative radiant energies of the analytical lines are recorded. The vacuum ultraviolet area contains the most sensitive lines of arsenic, boron, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, and tin. By vacating the spectrometer and flushing the spark chamber with argon, the absorption of the radiation by air in this location is overcome.

    Video 01: Spectrometer testing of low-alloy steel

    Specimen Size:

    The specimen thickness might vary considerably depending on the design of the spectrometer stand, according to ASTM E415; however, a thickness between 10 mm and 38 mm has been determined to be most practical.


    When reference materials and specimens are of similar metallurgical condition and composition, according to the ASTM E415 test procedure, better results are expected. It is not, however, needed in all cases where this standard is used.


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