Introduction to PFTNA

Pulsed fast and thermal neutron activation (PFTNA) technology instantaneously delivers highly representative elemental analysis for safe, robust in-line process control in real time. 

Over recent years, increasingly efficient technologies have been developed to analyze the composition of raw materials on line, thus making it possible to adapt raw material preparation operations instantly. One of the most widely used technologies is neutron analysis. Through its penetration capacity, it allows the analysis of several tonnes of material in real time. In the mining industry, the elemental analysis of raw materials is a key step in the manufacturing process but, neutron activation analysis is also commonly used in the cement industry, the coal industry and for minerals and waste.

What is PFTNA and how does it work?

This method consists in bombarding the raw material with pulsed neutrons, then measuring the energy of the gamma rays induced by the interaction of the neutrons with the nuclei of the atoms. By ‘illuminating’ the raw material with neutrons, the Controlled Neutron Analyzer (CNA) analyzes all the material on a belt, from top to bottom and side to side. Most of the elements composing the raw material are identified and immediately quantified.

The use of an electrical neutron source guarantees the stability of the system's analytical performance, through the constant production of neutrons throughout its life cycle. This characteristic reduces the number of periodic calibration operations, which are often difficult to carry out on-site and are always detrimental to production.

Advantages of PFTNA

  • Quick determination of the target chemistry of materials enabling powerful process control 
  • Highly representative data 
  • Environmental and operator safety
  • Cost-saving opportunities
  • The analysis is done instantaneously, allowing many control changes over short periods of time to achieve the target chemistry
  • Unlike radioactive isotope-based units, the neutron source can be switched off so it can be handled without risk and can easily be transported, stored and replaced whenever necessary without interrupting the production process

Industry solutions for pulsed fast and thermal neutron activation

CNA cross-belt analyzers from Malvern Panalytical provide real-time elemental analysis for the cement, mining and coal industry.

The CNA Pentos-Cement can replace a sampling tower, saving laboratory costs by reducing testing and preparation labor, raw feed tailoring to improve grinding efficiency and reducing energy costs and real-time control of additives to the raw mix, resulting in lower additive usage and improved quality of the raw mill output.

With the help of a CNA-Nickel mining, nickel and extraction operations will benefit from control of quality and moisture of the ore before shipping to and arrival at the treatment plant. This enables sorting of material on nickel content and optimizes the homogenization of the stockpile.