Accurate analysis of 36 elements in soil and sediment samples


Soil contains a wide variety of compounds and elements. This can range from nutrients like sulphates and phosphates to toxic elements like arsenic or cadmium. The destination of a location can be determined based on the elemental composition of soil. This datasheet demonstrates that the Epsilon 4, a benchtop energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (EDXRF), can analyze major, minor and trace elements in soils and sediments, prepared as pressed powders. In this datasheet an application method is set up for 36 compounds and trace metals present in soils.


Measurements were performed using a Malvern Panalytical Epsilon 4 EDXRF spectrometer, equipped with a 50 kV silver (Ag) anode X-ray tube, 6 software-selectable filters, a helium purge facility to improve the light element performance, a high-resolution SDD30 silicon drift detector, a sample spinner, and a 10-position removable sample tray for unattended batch analysis.

Sample preparation

Twenty-six soil and sediment certified reference standards were used to create the application and included the GSS- and GSD- series of geochemical reference materials (Institute of Geophysical and Geochemical Prospecting, PRC) together with NIST SRM 2709, 2710 and 2711 (National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA). The standards were analyzed in the form of pressed powder pellets. The standards and samples were oven dried and then pulverized in a planetary ball mill together with 20% wax/styrene additive. The additive acts as a binder and a grinding agent, resulting in a uniform grain-size of smaller than 40 µm. Twelve grams of the mixture was pressed into pellets using a hydraulic press operated at 20 tons pressure.

Measurement procedure

Six different measurement conditions were used, each one optimized to excite a particular group of elements (Table 1). The total measurement time was 25 minutes per sample.

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