Historically automated equipment for X-ray sample preparation was limited to routine samples with a limited variation range of the composition based on the risk of cross contamination.
Changing environmental regulations, current demands for plants to operate 24/7/365 and challenges balancing increased quality against lowering production costs add to the complexity of cement and lime plant operation today.
The role of full phase analysis in the mining industry has grown in past 10 to 15 years as a result of significant improvements in XRD instrumentation and corresponding analysis software. Today the measurements take only a few minutes and a full pattern Rietveld refinement can be performed in just a few of minutes.
In previous Blog posts I have discussed the importance of high quality sample preparation for XRF analysis. In this post I would like to highlight a specific example of the benefit of automated high quality sample preparation for the XRF analysis of potash.
During the past 10 years XRD (X-ray diffraction) gained greater acceptance for industrial applications, particularly for the cement industry. One of the major drivers is the need for more and better phase information at the different steps during the production.
One of the key challenges to good XRF sample preparation is contamination. Contamination comes from two main sources: the sample preparation device and sample to sample cross contamination.
XRF or X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometry is an elegant chemical analysis technique used frequently in many industries for quality control of materials and R&D. Despite its widespread use in industry it is an analytical technique rarely encountered by students in colleges and universities, especially in the United States. The rare exceptions to this are the geology departments in a few institutions where the technique is still used for geochemical studies. XRF units are pretty user friendly and durable as analytical instrumentation goes and quite forgiving equipment for students to learn on. I was fortunate to be introduced to XRF in the early 1990's at Franklin and Marshall College through an undergraduate research project. It was an old Diano dual tube system with a built in keyboard that looked like something out of 1960's Star Trek episode. I remember think how cool it was that we were entrusted to run the system and collect data by ourselves. Thus began my fascination with X-ray techniques and analytical geochemistry.
Outside of vendor specific educational courses it can be difficult to educate yourself or your employees about the best uses of this technique so I have assembled some of the top educational resources I have used in my career in the industry.
One of the most common methods of preparing samples for XRF analysis is by making pressed pellets. This process is particularly popular as it produces high quality results, is relatively quick and is a low cost approach. The process also lends itself to simple and cost effective automation for higher throughput laboratories.
Sample Preparation for XRF Analysis
XRF( X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry) is a comparative chemical analysis technique that is capable of analyzing a wide range of materials in different forms for a large part of the periodic table. This versatility makes it applicable to a wide range of applications: from quality control for steel, to the analysis of sulfur in gasoline to heavy metals in plastics and electronics. XRF can analyze almost any material you can present to the spectrometer, but the better you prepare a sample the more accurate your analytical results.