What is X-ray Fluorescence?
X-ray fluorescence is an analytical technique that can be used to determine the chemical composition of a wide variety of sample types including solids, liquids, slurries and loose powders. XRF is also used to determine the thickness and composition of layers and coatings. It can analyze elements from beryllium (Be) to uranium (U) in concentration ranges from 100 wt% to sub-ppm levels.
Principles of X-Ray Fluorescence
XRF is an atomic emission method, similar in this respect to optical emission spectroscopy (OES), ICP and neutron activation analysis (gamma spectroscopy). Such methods measure the wavelength and intensity of ‘light’ (X-rays in this case) emitted by energized atoms in the sample. In XRF, irradiation by a primary X-ray beam from an X-ray tube causes emission of fluorescent X-rays with discrete energies characteristic of the elements present in the sample.
Applications of X-Ray Fluorescence
XRF is a versatile analytical technique that finds application across an extensive spectrum of industries and scientific fields. Its adaptability and precision have made it an indispensable tool for understanding and manipulating the elemental composition of materials. From aiding in material identification and quality control i industries to preserving cultural heritage and advancing scientific research, XRF continues to play a pivotal role in enhancing our understanding of the elemental world.
Quality Control and Elemental Analysis
XRF is widely used in quality and process control. Users can quickly get accurate and precise results with limited effort on sample preparation, and it can be readily automated for use in high-throughput industrial environment, such as: XRF's precision and non-destructive nature make it an invaluable tool for quality control in various manufacturing sectors, such as:
- Metallurgy: In metallurgical processes, XRF ensures the integrity of alloys by confirming their composition. It's a critical step in manufacturing products such as aircraft components, car parts, and structural materials.
- Electronics: Electronics manufacturers employ XRF to inspect circuit boards, ensuring components' adherence to strict elemental standards.
- Cement: XRF is employed in the cement industry for analyzing raw materials and alternative fuels, as well as controlling the quality of the final product.
Research and Development
XRF plays a pivotal role in materials research and development:
- Material Science: Researchers study the properties of materials and create new compounds (I.e., catalysts or coating materials) by precisely and accurately analyzing elemental composition.
- Semiconductor Industry: XRF contributes to the development of cutting-edge semiconductors by ensuring the purity and composition of materials used in chip manufacturing.
- Art and Archaeology: XRF helps conservators and archaeologists analyze pigments, ceramics, and artifacts, shedding light on their origins and authenticity.
Pharmaceuticals and Medicine
In the pharmaceutical and medical fields, XRF also has diverse applications:
- Drug Analysis: It verifies the quality and safety of drugs and ensures they meet stringent quality standards according to ICH-Q3D. XRF is also used as a quick screening tool before the samples are analyzed by the more labour intensive ICP and AAS methods.
- Biomedical Research: XRF aids in studying trace elements in biological samples, offering insights into diseases and treatment.
Advantages of XRF analysis
XRF analysis is a robust technique, combining high precision and accuracy with straightforward, fast sample preparation. It can be readily automated for use in high-throughput industrial environments, plus XRF provides both qualitative and quantitative information on a sample.
Determination of elemental composition
The technology used for the separation (dispersion), identification and intensity measurement of a sample’s X-ray fluorescence spectrum gives rise to two main types of spectrometer: wavelength dispersive (WDXRF) and energy dispersive (EDXRF) systems.
How does XRF Instrumentation work?
- X-ray Generation:
An XRF instrument contains an X-ray tube that produces X-rays. In the X-ray tube, electrons are accelerated and then collide with a target material (usually a metal, such as Rh and Ag) to produce high-energy X-rays.
- Sample Irradiation:
The generated X-rays are directed towards the sample being analyzed. When the X-rays hit the sample, they interact with the atoms in the sample and emit characteristic X-ray which are unique to each element.
The instrument contains a detector that can identify and measure the energy of the characteristic X-rays emitted by the sample. The intensity of these X-rays is proportional to the concentration of the corresponding elements in the sample.
The detected X-ray energy spectra are analyzed by the instrument's software. The software compares the characteristic X-ray energies to a known database of X-ray energies for different elements. Based on this comparison, the software determines the elemental composition and concentration in the sample. The User Software presents all the elements and concentrations in a table that is easy to read and if required is transmitted to an external computer or local server for further analysis or back-up.
Our XRF analyzers
We offer a wide range of X-ray Fluorescence solutions and XRF analyzers for the analysis of elemental composition of a wide range of materials and applications, and comprising both Wavelength and energy-dispersive solutions. For more information on XRF analyzer prices, read our how much does an XRF analyzer cost page. Or discover our solution portfolio in the table below.
Our range of XRF software packages can support you to extract the maximum value from your XRF instrumentation. Our commitment to excellence means that our software is continuously evolving. We invest in research and development to stay at the forefront of XRF analysis technology to ensure that you have access to the latest advancements and features.