Insights from industry

XRF Spectrometers and their Application for Sample Analysis

In part one of a two-part interview, Dr. Ravi Yellepeddi, Global Director of Marketing and Business Development, Materials and Minerals, part of the Chemical Analysis Division at Thermo Fisher Scientific talks to AZoM about the development of XRF spectrometer technology and the application of this equipment for sample analysis.

You can read part two of this interview here.

As a global supplier of analytical instruments, how would you describe the core capabilities of this company?

Thermo Fisher Scientific is the world’s largest analytical instrument company today, both on the laboratory side and on the process side. Our core capabilities are that we cover almost all the analytical techniques with few exceptions – covering from A to Z. In addition to X-ray fluorescence, X-ray diffraction and optical emission spectrometry for elemental and structural analysis, we also offer ICP-MS, ICP-OES, IR and Raman Spectroscopy, Surface analysis techniques such as ESCA, Auger and Microanalysis.

So in terms of our capabilities, Thermo Fisher Scientific stands out as a unique company with the breadth and  depth of analytical technologies across the board, from life sciences, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals on the organic side, to inorganic heavy industries like cement, metals, minerals, coal, and materials processing.

Whether it is in a laboratory space or a process control environment or whether it is in an industry or a research lab, Thermo Fisher Scientific can provide analytical solutions to suit the most demanding chemical analysis needs.

Thermo Fisher Scientific operates in four premier brands: Thermo Scientific, Life Technologies, Fisher Scientific and Unity Lab Services.

Elemental analysis is one part of Thermo Scientific. Whilst having a wide range of X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometers within this division, what would you say are the key products in this line and why?

As you know, XRF instruments can be broadly classified as Energy Dispersive and Wavelength Dispersive XRF.

The former instruments (EDXRF) tend to be very compact, simpler, mobile or transportable. The wavelength dispersive XRF (WDXRF) instruments are stationary in most cases, tend to be heavier, operate at higher power, and demand more support in the laboratory. From portable XRF through bench-top (transportable) EDXRF to floor standing high-end, high-performance WDXRF instruments, Thermo Scientific brand of X-ray instruments offers a wide range of solutions depending on the customer’s needs and budgets.

The XRF technology has been evolving continuously over the past 3 decades and has now become one of the matured analytical techniques to address a variety of industrial and non-industrial challenges. The technique itself is quite universal in the sense that all types of materials – organic or inorganic, solids or liquids, small or big objects, thick solids or thin films – can be measured using XRF. The XRF instrumentation has also become more self-sufficient in terms of peripheral support (water, power and gas supplies) and with integrated designs, recent generation of XRF analyzers are now much more economical and offer alternative analysis to traditional wet chemistry.

ARLTM QUANT’X EDXRF Spectrometer by Thermo Scientific.

ARLTM QUANT’X EDXRF Spectrometer by Thermo Scientific.

Does this mean that applications for this technology have become more widespread as a result of miniaturizing the XRF analyzers?

Yes, with the development of portable and transportable EDXRF analyzers which are then fully supported by laboratory based high performance WDXRF instruments for more advanced or demanding analytical needs, the area of applications for X-ray Fluorescence has grown rapidly over the past two decades. Thermo Fisher Scientific has been investing in developing innovative products that cover a variety of application areas.

How do you prepare a sample for your XRF machines and how is the data on a sample recorded and analyzed?

There are different sample preparation methods used for XRF analysis: one can directly measure a solid or a liquid sample depending on its size or quantity. Loose powders, granules, irregular objects and surfaces can be screened quickly with a portable XRF instrument before elaborate sample preparation is used. For more and more accurate and reliable analysis, one can grind the samples, press them into pellets or fuse into glass beads before submitting them for XRF analysis. The sample preparation is adopted depending on the type of sample and the analysis requirements. For a typical industrial process and quality control, more standardized sample preparation methods are needed for reliability and reproducibility.

For ad-hoc, non-routine samples, one can adopt the preparation method depending on the element coverage, the concentration ranges and whether or not the sample is chemically or physically stable. The analytical performance of the XRF instrument itself depends on the power of the X-ray tubes used, the optical coupling between the source of excitation, the sample, the dispersion devices, and the detector technology.

In a very simplified manner, any sample analysis can be grouped into Majors (>5%), Minors (0.5 to 5%) and Trace elements (<0.5%). The XRF technique in general is capable of detecting elements from ppm (parts per million) levels to 100% depending on the sample and type of instrument used.

For example, a portable or hand-held XRF instrument can pick up most of the major elements, minor elements and some trace elements. A more powerful bench-top instrument can reach lower limits of detection while a high power laboratory WDXRF instrument can meet more demanding applications down to sub-ppm levels.

NitonTM XL3p Handheld XRF Analyzer by Thermo Scientific.

NitonTM XL3p Handheld XRF Analyzer by Thermo Scientific.

With your bench-top products that are in the lab, there is clearly a more controlled environment for sample analysis and preparation. How are findings affected by the application of your hand-held products in an environment where the surrounding conditions are not easily controlled?

Yes, the quality of analytical data is not only dependent on the type of instrument used but the conditions in which the samples are taken, prepared, analyzed and treated. Obviously the analytical expectations from a handheld XRF instrument versus a laboratory-stationary XRF instrument are different.

In the former case, one is expecting convenient, fast on-site or on-the-spot analysis with a view to quickly identify the chemistry before proceeding for more in-depth analysis. With the latter, i.e. high-power WDXRF instruments, the expectations are to produce accurate, repeatable and reliable quantitative data to control a cement plant or a steel plant or a petrochemical refinery or deal with a variety of unknown samples in a contract laboratory etc. In both cases, readers can find further information at our Thermo Scientific – Elemental Analysis division from Thermo Scientific.

About Dr. Ravi Yellepeddi

Dr. Ravi Yellepeddi

Dr. Ravi Yellepeddi, based in Switzerland, is currently Global Director of Marketing and Business Development, Materials and Minerals, part of Chemical Analysis Division at Thermo Fisher Scientific. He is involved in product development, applications and technical marketing activities for both Laboratory Analyzers and On-Line Process Analyzers in industrial and investigative areas such as cement, metals, minerals, petrochemicals and material science.







Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.


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