X-ray Fluorescence (XRF)

XRF Tec 1 5.1

X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) Technology is a well-accepted method to achieve non-destructive, simultaneous elemental analysis of various types of samples. Portable Analytical Solutions (PAS) are proud to offer the Thermo Scientific Niton Analyser range of portable and hand-held Energy Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence (EDXRF) Spectrometers.

The following technical explanation can also be found on the Niton Website.

Sample Analysis via EDXRF

Hand-held Thermo Scientific Niton EDXRF Analysers, commonly known as XRF analysers, are able to quickly and non-destructively determine the elemental composition of:

  • Metal and precious metal samples
  • Rocks and soil
  • Slurries and liquid samples
  • Painted surfaces, including wood, concrete, plaster, drywall and other building materials
  • Dust collected on wipe samples
  • Airborne heavy elements collected on filters

Thirty or more elements may be analysed simultaneously by measuring the characteristic fluorescence x-rays emitted by a sample. Thermo Scientific Niton hand-held XRF analysers can quantify elements ranging from magnesium (element 12) through uranium (element 92), measuring x-ray energies from 1.25 keV up to 85 keV in the case of Pb k-shell fluorescent x-rays excited with a 109Cd isotope. These instruments also measure the elastic (Raleigh) and inelastic (Compton) scatter x-rays emitted by the sample during each measurement to determine, among other things, the approximate density and percentage of the light elements in the sample.

How does EDXRF work? Each of the elements present in a sample produces a unique set of characteristic x-rays that is a “fingerprint” for that specific element. EDXRF analysers determine the chemistry of a sample by measuring the spectrum of the characteristic x-rays emitted by the different elements in the sample when it is illuminated by x-rays. These x-rays are emitted either from a miniaturised x-ray tube, or from a small sealed capsule of radioactive material.

A fluorescent x-ray is created when an x-ray of sufficient energy strikes an atom in the sample, dislodging an electron from one of the atom’s inner orbital shells. The atom regains stability, filling the vacancy left in the inner orbital shell with an electron from one of the atom’s higher energy orbital shells. The electron drops to the lower energy state by releasing a fluorescent x-ray, and the energy of this x-ray is equal to the specific difference in energy between two quantum states of the electron.

When a sample is measured using XRF, each element present in the sample emits its own unique fluorescent x-ray energy spectrum. By simultaneously measuring the fluorescent x-rays emitted by the different elements in the sample, hand-held Thermo Scientific Niton XRF analysers rapidly determine those elements present in the sample and their relative concentrations – in other words, the elemental chemistry of the sample. For samples with known ranges of chemical composition, such as common grades of metal alloys, these XRF ‘guns’ also identify most sample types by name, typically in seconds.

Light Element Analysis

Metal Sample Fluorescence

Recent advancements in Geometrically Optimised Large area Drift Detector (GOLDD™) technology have improved the performance of Niton hand-held XRF analysers in general, but most especially the performance on elements below atomic #17 (Mg, Al, Si, P, S, Cl). The Niton® XL2t and the Niton XL3t with GOLDD technology can now detect elements as low as Mg (#12) without the use of Helium purging or vacuum pumps. However, a few applications require the very best in light element sensitivity; this analysis is best performed either with a helium gas purge or in a vacuum chamber in a laboratory environment. As the use of a vacuum with portable XRF is highly impractical (even minor punctures to the thin window used to seal the instrument from the environment will draw dust, debris and metal filings into the instrument), then a He purge unit is the most appropriate solution for the very best performance on light element analysis (Mg, Al, Si, P, S, Cl).

Niton analyser sample analysis techniques

Hand-held Thermo Scientific Niton XRF analysers automatically compensate for any external or environmental factors which may otherwise bias or distort sample analyses. These effects include:

  • Geometric effects caused by the sample’s shape, surface texture, thickness and density
  • Spectral interferences
  • Sample matrix effects including critical absorption of the characteristic x-rays of one element by other elements in the sample, and secondary and tertiary x-ray excitation of one or more elements by other elements in the sample.

By automatically adjusting for these effects, Thermo Scientific Niton hand-held XRF analysers are able to determine the chemistries of samples of widely different compositions, typically in seconds, without any requirement for instrument users to input empirical, sample specific calibrations. In typical samples containing many elements, the elements may range in concentrations from high precent levels down to parts per million (ppm).

In sample matrices such as typical mining samples, metal and precious metal alloys, it is necessary to measure both lighter elements that emit lower energy x-rays (that are easily absorbed) as well as heavier elements that emit much higher energy x-rays (that penetrate comparatively long distances through the sample).

Thermo Scientific Niton Analysers and X-ray Fluorescence (XRF)

Compensation must be made for a variety of geometric effects. In these multi-element samples, it is also possible that one or more elements present, act as critical absorbers. The effects of absorption, enhancement and secondary fluorescence vary widely depending on the chemistry of the sample matrix, but in a sample with many elements in substantial concentrations, multiple absorptions, secondary and also tertiary XRF effects are typically present.

Thermo Scientific Niton hand-held XRF analysers compensate for all of these effects in order to determine the actual concentration of elements in multi-element samples from the modified fluorescence x-ray spectrum that these samples produce in the XRF analyser. To do this, we employ multiple methods to determine the true composition of these complex samples from their x-ray spectra. These include:

  • Fundamental Parameters (FP) analysis
  • Compton Normalization (CN)
  • Spectral matching (“fingerprint”) empirical calibrations
  • User-definable empirical calibrations
  • Various combinations of these techniques.

X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) Products


Niton XL2 100

The Niton XL2 100 hand-held XRF analyser, known as the Niton “Gun”, has been specifically designed for testing a range of precious metals. Fast, accurate, totally non-destructive testing is easy with the Niton XL2 100. The analyser can be used as a hand-held device for large objects or placed into the test stand for small … read more.

Niton XL3t 950 GOLDD+

Now with intergrated GPS The Niton XL3t 950 GOLDD+ with Intergrated GPS hand-held XRF analyser enables fast acquisition of data for rapid delineation of ore boundaries and in-depth, quantitative geochemical analysis of metal concentrations for mine mapping, drilling programs and grade control, critically important for the efficient running of mining operations. In all stages of the geochemical and mineral … read more.
Niton Rental

Instrument Rentals

PAS offer the opportunity to rent reliable, fully serviced Niton XRF Analysers for short or long term periods for Mining, Environmental and Alloy sectors. Perhaps you would like to trial an instrument for a new application? Or you are an existing customer that requires a second unit for a short time? Here at PAS we offer … read more.

Niton XL3t 980 GOLDD+

The Niton XL3t 980 GOLDD+ hand-held XRF analyser is our ultimate performance and feature instrument used throughout the manufacturing, fabrication, engineering and scrap recycling industry to determine positive material identification. With the Niton XL3t 980 GOLDD+ you don’t have to risk your business or your reputation on the accuracy of supplier documentation or miss analyse … read more.
Man pressing test button

Niton DXL

PAS introduce the NEW Niton DXL Precious Metal Analyser. With an innovative colour touch-screen display and touch-screen keyboard, this instrument is specifically designed to provide fast and accurate analysis of 21 elements and the purity and chemistry of all precious metals. Its features include; an improved intuitive interface, CCD Camera, large sample chamber with a … read more.

Niton FXL 950/ 959 GOLDD+

Niton FXL 950 Now your commercial elemental analysis lab comes to you – a valuable resource you can carry on the back of a truck for in-field exploration, based at the core shed or mining operations. The Niton FXL 950 Series Field X-ray Lab delivers XRF-based elemental analysis with lab-quality testing performance. Housed in a compact, portable … read more.
Niton Grinder sample prep 3.17

Sample Prep Equipment

Direct Rock Sampler Intended for cutting rocks and stone, for the collection of fine powders from a rock face or core, the special diamond cutting blades easily generate a sample by cutting slots, or even making a line cut on the rock face or drill cores, so that the powder is then easily collected, ready to … read more.
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Niton XL2t 800

The Niton XL2t 800 hand-held XRF analyser or “Niton Gun” as it is commonly known is our value leader instrument for metal alloy identification. With its bright yellow colour and rugged construction the XL2t 800 is the perfect tool for engineering companies, fabrication operations, production facilities and scrap recycling. Ruggedised for harsh industrial environments and a … read more.
Niton XL2 mining 3.14

Niton XL2t 500

The Niton XL2t 500 hand-held XRF analyser is the perfect choice for sorting ore, grade control and base metals exploration. Ruggedly constructed, easy to read screen, advanced electronics for data collection and reporting and excellent performance for Cu, Pb, Zn, Fe, Ti, V and Cr. With its bright yellow casing and renowned Niton point and shoot … read more.
Niton XL3 soils 309

Niton XL3t 600

The Niton XL3t 600 hand-held XRF analyser is our feature leader instrument that provides near real-time data in the palm of your hand for the identification and remediation of environmental contaminants on-site from soils and sediments to waste water, liquids and painted surfaces. With enhanced performance for Silver, Tin, Cadmium and Barium the Niton XL3t 600 … read more.

Niton XL2t 980 GOLDD

The Niton XL2t 980 GOLDD hand-held XRF analyser is the value performer for positive materials identification in the manufacturing, engineering, fabrication and scrap recycling sectors. Its rugged construction and bright colour make it perfect for these industries either on the production floor or in the scrap yard. The XL2t 980 GOLDD is our value performance leader … read more.
Niton XL2 GOLDD underground mine 3.6

Niton XL2t 950 GOLDD

The Niton XL2t 950 GOLDD hand-held XRF analyser is our mid-tier performance leader for exploration, grade control or mine management. With an ergonomically designed shape, easy to read touch screen, daylight readable icons and bright yellow colour make it the perfect tool for rugged exploration or mine industry operations. Whether you are testing for base metals … read more.