June 10th, 2014

Metal alloys

Ok, this is probably the weirdest question I've ever asked… I've done some research on google about metal alloys, but so far I haven't found the answers I'm looking for.
In one of my books, a character finds a strange object, made of some metal alloy. He can't dissolve it or break it apart to test it against some reagents to find what the different constituents are. He doesn't know how many components are involved in this alloy, nor which they are.
I was thinking that maybe radiation could help in a way? Sorry, my chemistry years are far far away… I have the vague notion that every atom has its own kind of "signature" and that it would be a good way to start. But maybe I'm really going the wrong way about that.
It's happening in the near-future, so the technology doesn't have to exist yet. But if I'm right about the "signature" thingie, I could elaborate on that to have him determine the different components.

Another question, still about my metal alloy… How would it be possible to determine how old it is? Carbon 14 doesn't work for metal, cesium 137 neither, if I'm not mistaken, and the regular methods (like the aging of the metal, the oxidation on its surface, etc.) aren't usable here. Is there a way to determine the age of the alloy, again without breaking it apart?

Thanks a lot, and sorry for the really weird question :/