Fast X-ray flurorescence elemental analysis from Olympus

Olympus, a world leading manufacturer of optical, electronic and precision engineering product through the purchase of Innov-X Systems in 2010, has been at the forefront of the development of portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis technology since the 1960s.

XRFs provide fast, non-destructive qualitative and quantitative characterisation of materials. They can be used for detection, identification and analysis of elements at a range of concentrations.

Safety first

One important consideration when utilising hand-held XRF analysers is the amount of radiation to which an operator is exposed. The design and features of the Olympus devices combine to minimise the “˜equivalent radiation dose’ to which a technician may be exposed.

An XRF analyser uses a controlled beam of radiation to excite the electrons in a sample causing the elements to “˜fluoresce’. Each element fluoresces at a specific energy level, which can be identified as a characteristic peak. A higher peak indicates a greater concentration of an element.

Choosing a model

Olympus has recently released two new hand-held XRF models – the Delta Premium Plus and the Delta Professional.

“The Delta Premium Plus is aimed at the mineral exploration and mining sector,” said Regional Sales Manager Andrew Taylor.

“The Delta Professional has been developed for the Alloy and non-destructive testing sectors, especially companies conducting analysis of manufactured and scrap materials such as stainless steel and a wide range of other alloy types.”

The Premium Plus is most commonly used by field geologists to determine elemental concentrations in a particular soil, rock or ore sample. This type of work is regularly carried out by mining companies in remote areas, so the ability to measure samples on location and thereby minimising the number that need to be sent to a laboratory for analysis saves both time and money.

When a Delta Premium is calibrated with “˜Geochem’ mode, it looks for specific elements and can accurately measure concentrations from parts per million up to percentages. It can detect elements in the periodic table ranging from magnesium to uranium. Used on location for immediate results, the Premium can help determine the next course of action, when time is a critical factor or materials cannot be transported, damaged, or altered.

The Window Guard system is also available for specific models of the Delta analyser range. It is an economical accessory that is easy to mount and remove and is designed to protect the instrument’s sensitive components from damage by sharp objects, dirt and debris. The Window Guard can minimise costly repair bills and down time, especially when testing metal turnings, shavings and protruding components.

Looking to the future

Early XRF analysers were large, floor-mounted devices that required lots of power. A consequence of this was that the cost of early devices was prohibitive for all but the largest analysis laboratories. XRF technology has advanced such that the size of the today’s portable units has become much smaller and their cost has dropped significantly.

According to Mr Taylor, development engineers are continually investigating different detectors, filtering techniques and analysis algorithms to improve the sensitivity and accuracy of portable XRF devices across a wide range of materials.

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