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XRF: Basic Overview

Brief Overview of X-Ray Fluorescence Technology…
When sufficient energy light waves (x-ray or photon) are absorbed by an atom, the inner shell electrons are excited to an outer shell or removed completely. The empty inner shell that remains is ‘filled’ by electrons from an outer shell of the atom.   The difference in energies between the two shells involved is excess energy; which when generated in this process is emitted as radiation (fluorescence).
In a given element the energy difference between two specific orbital shells is characteristic of that element and is always the same – therefore, the emitted light wave will always have the same energy. By determining the energy emitted by a particular sample we are able to identify the element involved.
The Skyray XRF Process…
Most of the Skyray XRF instruments highlighted at this website utilize Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence (EDXRF) Technology to accurately and non-destructively determine elements present in a given sample. This analytical process was developed for commercial use in the 1950’s and Skyray Instrument Inc is constantly working to perfect the technology and utilize it in different forms (see Portable XRF).
Other methods of elemental analysis or chemical characterization (atomic absorption, inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy, wavelength dispersive XRF) are either destructive, require massive units, are limited in function or are too expensive when compared to the energy dispersive x-ray model. The benefits of EDXRF in comparison make it the preferred method for a variety of application needs.
Skyray XRF energy dispersive systems have many components but there are a few major critical  parts in the process. First, an x-ray source known as an x-ray tube (generally 50-60kV, 50-300W) emits an x-ray beam into the sample being analyzed. After this beam excites and displaces electrons the resulting energy that is characteristic to the element is emitted as a wavelength and collected by another major component, the detector. The type of detector tube varies in each model of Skyray XRF and each has different benefits that suite a particular application need (for details on detection systems; review this XRF-Blog entry)
The major components utilized are important for an instrument’s daily performance (accuracy and repeatability of results) and the long-term life of the instrument. Skyray Instrument Inc utilizes the highest quality components so that top performing instruments can be provided to our customers.


EDXRF can be used for a tremendous variety of applications
. Depending on the individual model they can non-destructively measure from Sodium (Na) to Uranium (U) in powder, liquid or solid samples. Both portable and desktop x-ray units perform hazardous substance detection (RoHS, WEEE, Prop-65, etc), alloy identification, karat analysis, coating thickness measurements and much more.  Based on its versatility, non-destructive method and cost-effeciency EDXRF has become an important tool in analytical laboratories - Skyray Instrument Inc is constantly working to improve on each of those levels.


Additional Reading and Information:

     NDT Magazine Article (by Skyray XRF) about the evolution of x-ray fluorescence

     A Brief Slide Presentation on XRF Technology and How it works can be viewed here

     Please contact Skyray XRF for additional information on XRF technology, how it can be of value to your organization.


Additional XRF Technology: Wavelength Dispersive XRF
Skyray XRF offers a wide range of testing instruments; including Wavelength Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence (WDXRF).  An overview of the differences between EDXRF and WDXRF can be found in our XRF-Blog section (just follow this link).