X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF)

X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy & XRF applications

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 the emission of fluorescent X-rays with discrete energies characteristic of the elements present in the sample.

Figure, right: Example of the X-Ray fluorescence (XRF) process: 1) Incoming photon 2) Characteristic photon.

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 in 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 environments. 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.

Metal Analysis

Analytical solutions for metal analysis and alloy manufacturing
Metal Analysis

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.

Research and discovery

Physicochemical analysis methods and expertise to aid selection of drug can...
Research and discovery


Biophysical characterization expertise to speed biological development

Instruments with thoughtful innovations

Malvern Panalytical instruments’ have driven XRF innovation in several areas. Elemental analysis instruments can be energy-intensive and generate significant waste, but eco-efficient innovation from Malvern Panalytical has the potential to change this.

We also believe that an instrument should not be complicated to use just because it is powerful, so we have invested in user-friendly features that make method development and data quality management a breeze. With our XRF instruments, you benefit from the optimum combination of technological advancement, thoughtful flexibility, and sustainable performance.

No compromise on quality, speed, or accuracy

Speed or accuracy? There is often a dilemma with XRF spectrometers between quality data that is still usable and rapid results that are detailed enough. With our premium instruments, the trade-off between performance and speed disappears, thanks to innovative features and thoughtful design across our range.

We also offer innovative form factors for a variety of space requirements. Some of our portable and benchtop instruments have accuracy similar to floor-standing XRF instruments.

XRF instruments that can keep up with you

The XRF spectrometers of the past often struggled to keep up with the demands of an ambitious laboratory. Each sample method required extensive training, and the instruments often lacked the sample changer capacity for efficient measurement.

With our instruments, you can count on accurate results and high sample throughput, saving your lab valuable time. Fast feedback loops and a variety of monitoring features across our range further enhance your XRF efficiency by streamlining your workload and simplifying maintenance.

Advantages of XRF analysis

There are many ways to analyze elemental composition in quality control – ICP, AAS, and XRF, for example – and each technique has its advantages. But XRF has a particularly high number of advantages compared with other techniques.

Where alternative techniques often require destructive sampling for the analysis to work, XRF is fast and non-destructive. In addition, analysis can be done in air at the production site, and it’s typically more cost-effective than other techniques.

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.

Find out more about these spectrometer types and the technologies behind them here:

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

XRF analyzer price

XRF analyzer price

How much does an XRF Analyzer Cost? There are a wide range of XRF...

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.

Analysis software

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.



Compact brilliance, powerful analysis, endless possibilities



Smart Zetium for reliable results and robust operation

Epsilon range

Epsilon range

Fast and accurate at- and on-line elemental analysis

Axios FAST

Axios FAST

XRF of choice for highest throughput or shortest measurement time

2830 ZT

2830 ZT

Advanced semiconductor thin film metrology solution

Measurement type
Thin film metrology
Elemental analysis
Contaminant detection and analysis
Elemental quantification
Chemical identification
Wavelength Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence (WDXRF)
Energy Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence (EDXRF)
Elemental range Na-Am Be-Am F-Am B-Am B-Am
LLD 0.1 ppm - 100% 0.1 ppm - 100% 1 ppm - 100% 0.1 ppm - 100% 0.1 ppm - 100%
Resolution (Mn-Ka) 145 eV 35eV 145eV 35eV 35eV
Sample throughput Up to 200per 8h day Up to - 240per 8h day Up to - 160per 8h day Up to - 480per 8h day up to 25 wafers per hour