Wavelength Tech Forum: X-Ray Spectroscopy

July 21, 2006

In this month's Technology Forum, participants discuss trends in X-ray spectroscopy. Joining us for this roundtable are Kimberley Russell, Director of Marketing for Innov-X Systems, and Steven Pomerantz, Director of X-ray Business Development for Thermo Electron Corporation.

In this month's Technology Forum, participants discuss trends in X-ray spectroscopy. Joining us for this roundtable are Kimberley Russell, Director of Marketing for Innov-X Systems, and Steven Pomerantz, Director of X-ray Business Development for Thermo Electron Corporation.

What is the current state of the X-ray spectroscopy marketplace? What trends do you see emerging?

Russell: For the most part the marketplace continues to track world regulatory and financially related materials/resource issues. For instance, the EU's Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) regulation offers a significant opportunity to the XRF marketplace. XRF is the best screening technology available for the demands of the regulation. In addition, the WEEE and other countries' environmental regulations for metals such as Pb, Hg, Cd, Cr, and Br will continue to fuel this market. The No Pb Manufacturing push is a general area that continues to benefit the marketplace. Financially related materials/resource issues include the recent scarcity of particular metals that are demanding top prices. The depletion of many metals due to increased use in emerging economies, such as Russia, China, and India, are fueling this marketplace.

Pomerantz: We see this market growing, especially in the Energy Dispersive technology. Lower cost, portability, better detection limits, and the ability to analyze small parts have given manufacturers and suppliers the ability to screen materials for the new RoHS/WEEE directives. EDXRF has proven to be an excellent non-destructive screening tool for elemental analysis of materials and components that go into consumer and electronic products.

Has X-ray spectroscopy changed much in the last 5 years? In what ways?

Russell: The continued developments in processing software as well as smaller, faster, and higher-capacity electronic components continue to drive X-ray spectroscopy changes. The fact that X-ray spectroscopy is based more on simple physics than the more variable and complex world of chemistry allows it to continue to have more straightforward applications to the world of materials as they evolve. This allows an ability to introduce new products and/or application-oriented modifications to the marketplace more easily and quickly.

Pomerantz: XRF has gained a wider acceptance as a technique of choice over the recent years. For example, the ability to quantify unknown samples without standards. When specific standards are not available or samples are only available in small quantities or irregular shapes, this has created a need for special software and algorithms that provide a standard-less analysis. This technique has gained more popularity, as it is a big time saver for the analyst.

What are the most exciting innovations in X-ray spectroscopy? Are new applications being developed for the technology?

Russell: New applications are being discovered and developed all the time in the world of portable X-ray spectroscopy. The fact that many of the features and performance capabilities available in laboratory or bench-top systems are now found in handheld and other portable devices is allowing the technology to expand its applications. It is now a given that the analyzer can go to the sample as opposed to the sample having to come to and conform to the analyzer.

Pomerantz: Both portability and the ability to analyze small, unknown samples. Having the capability to analyze small areas of a larger component or device was previously left to the larger high-end microanalysis tools, which are still the instruments of choice for large sample analyses. The ability to look at small areas with less expensive XRF instruments means manufacturers can have faster results using less specialized analysis expertise.

Which techniques do you see being the most popular/important in the future (XRD, XRF, etc.)?

Russell: The new generation of users of this technology is the Gen-Net'ers. They look for 24/7 connectivity and multi-language capabilities. They also look for "cool geek" things to play with. I believe that the popularity of the CSI TV series as well as similar ones has done quite a bit to make this type of technology seem more mainstream than it was in the past. The Gen-Net'ers will simply view analytical technologies as applications of desktop and/or handheld devices that look like the games/electronic toys they've been playing with since childhood.

Pomerantz: Even though XRF is more popular, especially considering the impact of the RoHS/WEEE directives and the convenience portables offer, we see both being equally important. Energy and materials are big growth drivers for X-Ray analysis instrumentation.

What do you think?

Click here to participate in our "Question of the Month" survey on X-ray spectroscopy.