Insights from industry

Enhanced Energy-Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence for Industrial Minerals

insights from industryDr. Adrian Fiege 
Dr. Kai Behrens
Bruker AXS

In this interview, Head of Product Management Dr. Kai Behrens and Product Manager Dr. Adrian Fiege talk to AZoM about the launch of the S2 PUMA Series 2. 

The new S2 PUMA Series 2 Energy-Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence (EDXRF) spectrometer for elemental analysis has enhanced capabilities to analyze everything faster. 

What is Bruker’s history with energy dispersive
X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) analysis?

Bruker has almost over 20 years of experience in energy-dispersive XRF with Bruker. We launched the S2 RANGER in 2003, the first instrument with an XY Autochanger but without need for liquid nitrogen. This made it much easier to put into a process control environment.

In 2015 we launched the S2 PUMA, a more compact and more powerful instrument with multiple configurations, the next generation in XFlash detector technology. In 2020, with the launch of the new S2 PUMA Series 2, we are bringing a new detector, new software, and many more features.

What are energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence analyzers?

When we talk about energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence analyzers, we know it is possible to do elemental analysis of solid samples, liquid samples, and almost the entire periodic table. But, to fulfill the needs of industry and research, there are some requirements and expectations.

Typically, users of EDXRF like to have an analytical tool with high flexibility. As they do not know what will come into the lab, samples or elemental ranges are not always clear. They will have changing requirements, too. There will be detection limit requirements going further down to look for an impurity.

As a result, we need to ensure we provide excellent data because any analysis of a material in the industry or in research adds value. We can determine if a finished product is good or not or if a new compound we have created in development fits the application or not. EDXRF and elemental analysis adds value to a material product.

Each application defines the final quality criteria. People are looking for elemental or composition data, and also for impurities or grain size.

For those of you who are not familiar with the principal, we are bombarding the sample with X-rays. There is an incoming beam, which expels electrons from the inner shell and then from the outer shell electrons fall down to the inner electron level and release the excess energy as characteristic fluorescence radiation.

This is instantaneous and happens simultaneously for all elements in the sample. By having a detector that can simultaneously analyze all elements in the spectrum, we can provide very short measurement times for almost the entire periodic table. Faster, more flexible software helps us to quickly extract the element information, along with a more intuitive user-interface in an instrument, making the instrument suitable for daily use in a production environment.

What properties would users of EDXRF look for in common materials such as sand, engine oils, or polymers?

When we use sand in the glass industry, the iron content becomes particularly important. In cyanide samples for refractories, we look for the mineral composition or the aluminum-silicon ratio or iron, because this determines the hardness of refractories. For additives in engine oils, we need to ensure a specific concentration of magnesium or molybdenum in order to ensure engine performance.

When using clay as a filler for polymers, the mineral type, and the composition is important when we use clay as a filler for food packaging. The restrictions and requirements are much tougher regarding hazardous elements when comparing to normal polymers that are used for instrument housing. These are all areas in which energy-dispersive XRF can help.

To ensure engine performance, specific concentrations of magnesium or molybdenum need to be ensured. Image Credit: Shutterstock/IU Liquid and water photo

What are the new features of the S2 PUMA Series 2 elemental analyzer?

The S2 PUMA Series 2 elemental analyzer comes with enhanced speed, enhanced flexibility, and enhanced usability.

We have introduced new hardware such as the new HighSense detector, and we have also added more flexibility by introducing, for example, more configurations, pushing the software to the next level. These improvements include improved usability and overall user experience and flexibility.

The S2 PUMA Series 2 comes with the Single configuration, as well as the XY Autochanger, the XY Automation, the Carousel, and the Mapping-Stage. What this means is that the S2 PUMA Series 2 is prepared for all kinds of needs in terms of sample throughput, sample sizes, sample shape, and sample type such as liquid, solid, or powder.

To go into more detail, the Single configuration means you get the results and the performance just as you did with the other units. You have the same high-end components and these parts are optimized. You also have convenient, fail-safe manual loading of samples.

This is typically for low sample throughput, and you have the option of TouchControl interface, which allows you to load the sample easily and get results within minutes after the push of a button. You can also add sample rotation, for instance if you are talking about relatively heterogeneous samples.

The XY Autochanger and XY Automation are useful when you need efficiency and productivity. This is when you need high sample throughput. The XY Autochanger comes with a tray for 20 sample positions. The nice thing is that you can add samples at any time; you can prioritize them, you can remove the entire tray if you have to, and this allows you to have high-throughput and flexibility combined in one unit.

The XY Autochanger has a very similar configuration, but it also has an interface at the back of the instrument where you have a conveyor belt that allows an automation system to feed the samples into the system. It communicates with the automation software, which is fully LIMS compatible.

We have a powerful AXSCOM interface, which is a professional, full automation integration. A nice addition is that you keep all the benefits of the XY Autochanger, with the entire XY tray available, and you can add and remove samples and prioritize them at any time. We also have additional buffer positions that allow users to enjoy a smooth, automated process with XY Automation.

The Carousel is what gives this instrument the most flexibility when it comes to sample types and sizes. It comes standard with the EasyLoad tray with four positions, with 51.5 mm diameter samples which can be trimmed down if needed. There is also the optional tray with 18 positions for 40 mm samples if you need to add some more throughput to the system.

One of the main features is that you can remove the entire tray and make use of the largest EDXRF chamber on the market. It is possible to position a bulk sample into the chamber, where you have a camera that allows you to reposition the sample and trim down the spot size with various collimators down to one millimeter.

Another new addition to the suite of configurations that now comes with S2 PUMA Series 2 is the Mapping-Stage. This adds spatial resolution to the benchtop EDXRF systems. You can load large samples, up to six inches or 152 mm in diameter, and you have the different inserts for different sample sizes.

Although we have a number of them available, we can also customize them to your needs. Spot size can be trimmed, and we have superb spatial resolution. Excellent spatial resolution is needed to measure multiple positions on your sample and to see how homogenous the sample is.

This is a typical production tool. Although mapping is generally not needed, users will need multiple measurements and want those to be reproducible, especially in spatial resolution.

Could you tell us about how switching to HighSense detectors has improved the S2 PUMA Series 2?

The key improvement is indeed the switch to HighSense technology with the new HighSense detector. The S2 PUMA Series 2 comes with our powerful 50 W tube and up to 2 mA and 50 kV in voltage. We have combined this with optimized and close-coupled beam optics, as well as a 10-position beam. This allows us to optimally excite the sample for best performance.

However, to get the best performance and reduce counting times or get lower detection limits, a fast detector is also needed. That is seen in the HighSense detector that comes with super high count rates and excellent energy resolution. This is the key to the unrivaled performance of the S2 PUMA Series 2, especially in combination with the powerful X-ray tube.

When comparing the S2 PUMA Series 2 with the 50 W tube to a conventional system with 15 W, the S2 PUMA Series 2 is much more powerful which equates to many more counts. More counts mean the analyzer can get better detection limits or better precision or even a combination of both, along with a shorter counting time. Users can manipulate that according to the key questions or challenges they have in their daily routine.

It is important to protect the core system components like the detector and the tube. How is this done with the S2 PUMA Series 2?

This is an important feature for industrial environments. Our SampleCare system, which is a unique, multi-layer system, protects the vital system components like the detector and the tube. To protect the tube, we have the filter wheel that automatically changes and protects the tube from spillages, contamination and other common occurrences.

To protect the detector, we have a dedicated detector cap, which also protects the detector from spillages and liquids. There is also a reservoir, which is easy to clean. With these components, we are implementing high up-time and easy maintenance.

How has the software of the S2 PUMA been improved?

We really pushed things to the next level with the software. We were building on a very strong base, the SPECTRA.ELEMENTS Version 2, and we have now switched to Version 3.

In Version 3, we really improved the programming in the back end, which helps us to speed up the system. There is no more waiting for spinning hourglasses. Any new windows open immediately.

Everything is built in one window with tabs, which offers easy navigation. We also improved the speed for the evaluation, which is now approximately 40 percent faster than before.

If users need to re-evaluate a sample, that is possible without re-measuring. We also have additional post-processing tools that make it easier for users to use their data and introduce it into their data management process.

Building on that, we have an additional Basic mode that allows users to hide all the features they do not want to see during routine business. You only see what you really need to see to make work easy and efficient.

We also pushed the standard resolution further, based on state-of-the-art programming. There is constant improvement in programming, and that helps users to benefit from a faster solution that is also more flexible and accurate.

Finally, overall, the user interface has been improved, so there is more flexibility in exporting the data and only showing the information you need.

If users are working in strictly regulated environments, the new version of the software comes with our optional additions such as the 21 CFR Part 11-compliance version for working in FDA-regulated industries, or if users simply want it for their business or the optional IQ/OQ procedure.

Where can energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence instruments find application?

Typically we can find energy-dispersive XRF instruments in almost every industry. It is used in glass and ceramics, for example, to determine major elements or impurities like iron.

Mineral mining and the S2 PUMA Series 2 can be used for great control of industrial minerals like limestone or feldspar, or to determine the metal concentration in the ore sample, such as nickel or any kind of copper and iron ore.

In metal slags, the S2 PUMA Series 2 is a very nice instrument for fast slag analysis and to give information on the furnace status. In academia, it is possible to synthesize any kind of new chemical substance. The farming industry uses EDXRF to control impurities or help research formulations. Food and feed are fields where EDXRF is vital, for example in determining nutrition concentrations and the correct mineral components in milk powder or in animal nutrition.

EDXRF can also find application in cement and building materials as a backup instrument for the big process control instruments, but also in smaller grinding plants, to ensure that the final cement product has the right composition.

The S2 PUMA Series 2 is also a very good instrument for quality control, for when you have a final product and you want to understand what the major and minor elements are, and what impurities are present in the product. One of the typical applications in quality control is in food and feed.

For this application, the sample preparation is minimal. You simply take several grams of your material and place it into a cup covered with a thin film. Depending on the material, there are different calibrations available.

We have come up with a solution based on hundreds of samples in food and feed and it covers the interesting elements, like sodium, up to 1 percent.  

To summarize the main improvements in the S2 PUMA Series 2, we have achieved improved speed with a three times higher count rate. The pump rate is two times higher and the software is faster, especially when it comes to evaluation and smooth operation.

The S2 PUMA Series 2 offers greater flexibility within the software, but also with additional configurations such as the Mapping Stage.

We have also enhanced usability with an improved user interface, additional maintenance tools, and powerful post-processing options that give users more flexibility in handling their data.

The S2 Puma Series 2 can be used for a wide variety of industrial minerals including limestone. Image Credit: Shutterstock/Rafael Vilalta

Where can our readers go to find out more?

To find out more about the S2 PUMA Series 2, please visit our website: - https://www.bruker.com/products/x-ray-diffraction-and-elemental-analysis/x-ray-fluorescence/s2-puma.html

You can also watch the product launch webinar: - https://my.bruker.com/acton/fs/blocks/showLandingPage/a/2655/p/p-0240/t/page/fm/0?utm_term=View%20recording%20%3E&utm_campaign=Virtual%20Events%202020&utm_content=landing+page&utm_source=Act-On+Software&utm_medium=landing+page&cm_mmc=Act-On%20Software-_-Landing%20Page-_-Virtual%20Events%202020-_-View%20recording%20%3E&sid=TV2:GdiiLBipd

 

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