Introduction to PFTNA

Pulsed fast and thermal neutron activation (PFTNA) technology rapidly delivers highly representative elemental analyses for safe, robust in-line process control in real time. This technology is being increasingly used in a variety of industries to enable high speed, online process control. PFTNA is able to measure nearly the complete flow on a passing belt conveyor and provide a composite analysis in minutes. More recent developments use the PFTNA technique to measure the composition in drill and blast holes as well as in process bins.

What is PFTNA and how does it work?

PFTNA uses a electrical tube to provide a pulsed flow of neutrons that interacts with the nuclei of the atoms in the passing material. In response, the atoms emit gamma rays at characteristic energy levels. These gamma rays are measured with scintillation detectors and high speed electronics to collect the spectrum of emitted gamma rays. The spectra are interpreted and the elemental concentrations are determined. 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. 


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 material chemistry enabling high speed process control 
  • Highly representative data 
  • Highly effective in locations where sampling is expensive or difficult 
  • Environmental and operator safety 
  • Cost-savings from tighter process control and avoidance of process upsets 
  • Unlike radioactive isotope-based units, the PFNTA neutron source can be switched off whenever plant personnel are passing nearby or when maintenance is required. The reduces the radiation exposure of plant personnel to near background levels. Industry solutions with pulsed fast and thermal neutron activation Malvern Panalytical provides real time process control solutions for the cement, coal and a wide range of mining industries. 

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.

CNA – On-line raw material analysis for cement process control

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