XRF handhelds are a simple and affordable solution for quick and easy elemental analysis. Yes, they are easy to use, measurements are done fast, and the instruments are easy to carry. However, as a user, confidence in the measurement results and the X-ray safety is your top priority. Therefore, the following considerations are essential for any prospective XRF handheld buyer to make a truly well-informed decision.
1. When you need a quick measurement
On paper, it looks nice to do all measurements as quickly as possible. Zap a sample in a few seconds, who wouldn’t want that? Probably all of us analysts – until you start wondering about accuracy. Accuracy improves with longer measurement times. For low-power XRF instruments (handhelds or benchtops), measurement times of several minutes per sample are normal. Aiming the handheld for a minute at exactly the same spot at the same distance is not an easy task but is essential. Note that intensities coming from the sample drop with the square of the distance between the handheld and the sample surface – that’s a serious accuracy risk! Instead of putting your handheld in a stand, choose a benchtop which is designed for these accurate and stable measurements.
2. Do XRF handhelds offer flexibility for any sample?
In XRF analysis, sample type and composition play an important role in the accuracy that can be obtained. XRF handhelds are supplied with a ready-to-use factory calibration, often optimized for one or a few sample types. Tailoring the analytical programs to your materials and needs, or setting up your own programs, is often impossible as the user software of many of these instruments is locked down. XRF benchtop systems include versatile standardless packages like Omnian, which allow you to easily switch between different sample types and compositions. Whichever sample you want to analyze, from plastic to minerals, from fine powder to big rocks, or even liquids, Omnian is ready to use. You can tailor the Omnian software to any type of matrix or set up as many dedicated analytical programs as you wish, using your own standards.
3. But I just want an indication…
Indeed, XRF handhelds give an indication of the composition of a sample. What this ‘indication’ truly entails differs per handheld brand, material type, operator, and believe it or not, even the weather conditions. The question is, how much do you want to sacrifice by having your X-rays portable?
The small Epsilon benchtops will deliver quality results, while being fully able to cope with mobility requirements, automatically correcting for ambient temperature and pressure fluctuations. You will sort and select materials more accurately and saving costs for unnecessary follow-up analysis. With FingerPrint on board for PMI (positive material identification), users can easily screen and select materials without any calibration, while growing their matching libraries on the fly as results are stored on the integrated Windows- based micro PC.
4. Are XRF handhelds safe?
High-energetic X-rays used in XRF spectrometers are dangerous to health because you cannot see them, feel them, hear them and smell them. XRF guns or handhelds fall into the category of open-source X-ray equipment and vendors leave the responsibility entirely to the user. All users operating handhelds should be aware of the dangers of direct and especially indirect exposure through X-ray scatter. Precautions will need to be taken to prevent scattered X-rays from harming you and your employees and their surroundings.
Epsilon benchtops are closed X-ray source spectrometers and only operate with full X-ray shielding, guaranteeing safe operation under any circumstance. No need to worry about any potential health and safety claims or expensive lawsuits.
5. When mobility is a requirement
XRF handhelds can be carried around with a battery which allows you to analyze for a few hours in the field. Small benchtops like the Epsilon 1 can also be transported easily, for example in the back of a car. It can run off a battery and does not require any other utilities except power for recharging. Therefore, it can be easily taken into the field together with optional basic sample preparation equipment to further increase accuracy. And when being in the field for multiple days, you can simply recharge your mobile lab, while moving to the next location.
Did you know that XRF benchtops can be as affordable as XRF handhelds?