An x-ray spectrometer uses a focused beam of charged particles to excite x-rays in a sample, thereby allowing for a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the material. X-ray spectrometry is used for chemical analysis in fields as diverse as mining, medical research, polymer manufacturing, geology, and consumer product quality control. There are two main types of analysis using x-ray spectrometers: energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS), which measures the energy of photons released by the sample, and wavelength-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, which counts the number of x-rays of a single wavelength that have been diffracted by the sample. The spectrum that is produced by the spectrometer allows scientists to determine which elements, and in what amounts, are present in the sample.
Considerations for purchasing x-ray analyzers
X-ray spectrometers have features that vary from one model to another. Some things to keep in mind when deciding which one is right for your purposes includes:
concentration ranges that are detected
time to analysis results
how extensive the reference library of spectra is
if portable, compact, or full-size machine better suits your needs
X-ray analysis in action
In recent years, x-ray spectrometry has been used in a variety of new and exciting ways. There is an x-ray spectrometer on the surface of Mars collecting data about the elements that comprise the soil. X-ray spectrometry has been used to detect lead paint on toys, decreasing the possible occurrence of lead poisoning. A partnership between science and art can be seen in the use of x-ray spectrometry to determine what makes up the particulate matter in museums that can damage their collections. Once the particulate matter is identified, it can be lessened or eradicated. For example, in one museum the particles were from decaying plaster on the walls, and in another they were soot from diesel fumes coming from the traffic outside. Repair of plaster in the first instance and better sealing of windows in the second have led to fewer particles in the air and less damage to irreplaceable works of art.
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