Wavelength's X-Ray Roundtable

July 20, 2005

Wavelength's X-Ray Roundtable

What is the current state of the X-ray spectroscopy (XRF, XRD, WDXRF, SAXS, etc.) marketplace? How does this compare to 5-10 years ago? Where do you see it going in the next 5-10 years?

(Pomerantz) We see the growth of XRF in handheld markets for on-site and in-plant uses. A key to this is the improvements made on detection limits and use of advanced technology such as portable PCs.

(Wissman) In comparison to 5-10 years ago EDXRF now also can be used for many of the applications, which only could be fulfilled with WDXRF before. XRF, in general, nowadays is used for many process control applications as well as for elemental screening. In the coming 5-10 years the demand for process control applications will grow. Benchtop XRF for quality control also is seeing many advancements now that will continue into the coming years.

(Yellepeddi) Both XRF (WDXRF and EDXRF) and XRD are finding increasing number of applications in a number of areas. Demand for EDXRF instruments is growing much faster than that for WDXRF compared to 5-10 years ago. XRD (especially powder XRD) is also increasing its presence in industrial applications (quality and process control). We see these techniques taking more opportunities in both industrial and non-industrial sectors (environmental, material science) in comparison with other elemental analysis techniques.

What are some of the most widely used applications of X-ray spectroscopy (metals, polymers, etc.)? What other applications will see increased or decreased usage in the future? Why?

(Pomerantz) Metals, alloys, QC, and environmental pollution all are key applications for XRF. The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directives by the European Union and others also will have a significant impact on growth as the deadline draws near next year. Many organizations are gearing up to understand and be compliant with these requirements.

(Wissman) The most widely used applications can be seen in petrochemical (fuel, oil, polymers) and chemical applications. However, XRF is used for a broad array of applications, and increases also are being seen in analysis of electronics and coatings on paper and metals, as well as applications in the cosmetics industry.

(Yellepeddi) XRF technique (in particular WDXRF) has been very well established in cement, metals, mining and other inorganic materials processing industries. There is an increasing usage in other industries such as petrochemicals, polymers, food etc. XRF (EDXRF) also gained an important place in central laboratories, environmental ,material screening and semiconductor areas.

What are some of the more widely used functions (Quality Control, Method Development, Research & Development, etc.) of X-ray spectroscopy? What function will see increased or decreased usage in the future? Why?

(Pomerantz) We see many user requirements in sorting of materials, positive material identification, and quality control applications. The advent of reliable, fast-reading handheld XRF analyzers has made it easier for the average user to get reliable data in a minute or less with "point and shoot" simplicity. This is faster and less expensive in comparison to lab testing.

(Wissman) All three mentioned examples are major areas of XRF analysis, where quality control makes the largest portion. This also will increase due to stricter environmental limits as well as the claim for tighter specifications in process control.

(Yellepeddi) Process and Quality control have been the most widely used functions in the industry but XRF is used now for more investigative work as well in conjunction with other spectroscopic techniques. Thanks to its multi-element, multi-matrix capability, XRF has significant advantages over other techniques for material characterization (both known and unknowns).

What have been some of the most recent substantial developments in X-ray spectroscopy? What future developments do you foresee?

(Pomerantz) Field analysis versus laboratory testing is growing and fueling demand. Analyzer capabilities to transmit data and reports using wireless links or over the Internet from field locations also are a major advantage of today's XRF technology.

(Wissman) The most recent substantial developments were the implementation of any X-ray optics in the analyzers. These can be used else to focus the beam or also to create a very intense monochromatic polarized excitation radiation. Electrically cooled high resolution detection systems in addition increased the demand for EDXRF instruments, and the gas-filled proportional counter is still in high demand for many industrial and manufacturing situations. Both areas, excitation and detection are areas of development for the coming years.

(Yellepeddi) In the WDXRF area, there is a much bigger choice of solutions (from entry level low power cost effective systems to highest performance instruments for demanding applications) than what was available 10 years ago. In the EDXRF area, significant advancements have been made to reduce backgrounds, lower the limits of detection to compete with other elemental analysis techniques etc. Both WDXRF and EDXRF platforms now offer versatile solutions. Finally, one of the most significant developments in the past 10 years have been to integrate both XRF and XRD in one instrument for chemical and phase analysis on the same sample.

Currently, North America, Japan, and Europe use X-ray spectroscopy the most. In the future, however, do you foresee other regions (Latin America, Asia Pacific, etc.) experiencing increased usage of X-ray spectroscopy?

(Pomerantz) Certainly China and other nations of the Far East will use more of today's XRF technology, with their growing demands for lower environmental pollution and higher quality control validation. The RoHS and WEEE initiatives will drive the growth of XRF within the producer-supplier and consuming nations for the long term.

(Wissman) Asia Pacific already now sees an increased use of XRF.

(Yellepeddi) Clearly, there is an increasing demand in Asia, Latin America and other "less" industrialized parts of the world compared to the traditional geographic areas.

Is there anything else about X-ray spectroscopy and its usage that you'd like to add?

(Pomerantz) Yes. The overall future growth of hand-held XRF analyzers will result from many factors. This includes dedicated higher-power devices, availability of rugged industrial-grade hand-held analyzers, and application-driven requirements leading to targeting specific needs in a cost-effective manner. The main growth driver, we believe, is the users' desire to get laboratory quality data in industrial and field environments.

(Wissman) XRF is often seen as competitive to AAS, ICP-AES and ICP-MS elemental analysis techniques. All these techniques can be seen as complimentary for a wide field of applications. Any future standard test methods and norms should orientate on performance based statements to allow the user to select the right tool for the application.