: X-ray technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, with new applications being developed every day. Joining us for this discussion are Scott Fess of Applied Rigaku Technologies, Inc.; Dirk Wissman of AMETEK SPECTRO Analytical Instruments; and John I.H. Patterson of Bruker AXS Handheld.
X-ray technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, with new applications being developed every day. Joining us for this discussion are Scott Fessof Applied Rigaku Technologies, Inc.; Dirk Wissman of AMETEK SPECTRO Analytical Instruments; and John I.H. Patterson of Bruker AXS Handheld.
What new developments have you seen in the field of X-ray technology over the past year?
Fess:The movement in XRF lately has been towards reducing the need for large suites of calibration standards and the simplification of user interface software that retains all the power and versatility of XRF. In the economy of the last years, process quality control has become even more important, with a need for powerful and versatile XRF instrumentation that is simple to operate at the production line. This gives the users more bang for their buck.
Wissman: Detectors based on SDD technology have become state-of-the-art in handheld XRF instruments. With these detection systems, higher count rates at good resolution are possible. This results in shorter measurement times and better LODs for many applications.
Patterson: The biggest recent development in the field of XRF technology was the introduction of silicon drift detectors (SDD). These detectors provide faster analysis time, better detection limits, and the ability to measure light elements (Mg, Al, Si, S, P, Cl) without the use of a vacuum or helium environment. Due to the special chip design with integrated charge amplifier, SDDs can process extremely high count rates and with very little change in energy resolution, which is unrivalled by any other energy dispersive X-ray detector.
Which application areas will benefit the most from the emergence of handheld X-ray instrumentation?
Fess: Applications which require or benefit from the analyzer being brought to the sample will continue to benefit the most from the emergence of handheld XRF instrumentation. Examples include scrap metal sorting, PMI, mining, soil remediation, and consumer goods, ROHS compliance, etc.
Wissman: The applications that will benefit most are those that require the portability of the analyzer. These include field testing, environmental screening, and mining applications in particular.
Patterson: The two largest applications for handheld XRF are alloy analysis and mine exploration and operation. Alloy analysis includes positive material identification (PMI), which involves confirming that the specified alloy has been used in a specific application and determining the value and nature of metal scrap. In the mining field, handheld XRF is used extensively in exploration to determine the quality and extent of a deposit. Additionally, it is used in mine control to determine which material to process further and to spot check concentrates to determine operating parameters or value of the concentrate. Both of these applications benefit significantly from new handheld XRF technology, which allows faster analysis than ever before, as well as light element analysis without a vacuum or helium environment.
Has handheld X-ray instrumentation reached its limit in terms of sensitivity or is there still room to improve?
Fess: There is always room to improve. The only limit is the ingenuity of the designers.
Wissman: With large area detection systems the sensitivity can still be improved. Improved sensitivity not only improves the limit of detection, but it also may allow manufacturers to reduce the power of the tube — lowering radiation levels.
Patterson: Market trends point to a growing demand to use handheld X-ray instruments to detect lower levels of contamination. Handheld X-ray instrumentation will surely continue to improve in terms of sensitivity to meet this demand; there is definitely still room to improve.
What will be the next big development or advance in X-ray technology?
Fess: Artificial intelligence is the future of XRF software. There will also be interesting developments in combining several analytical technologies in a single analyzer system. This, again, will bring more analytical power to more operators, without the need for special technical or scientific training.
Patterson: Many of the new alternative technologies show good promise, but at the moment they still have limitations which prevent them from replacing current X-ray technology. It is difficult to predict when the new technologies will be mature enough to replace current technology in large scale; however, it is clear that new innovations in nanotechnology and other fields of technology will transform future X-ray technology.
What do you expect from this year’s Denver X-Ray Conference?
Fess: I have not attended DXC in quite a while, but I look forward to attending this year and discussing many new and exciting topics in the field of XRF.
Patterson: The Denver X-ray conference allows us to see, hear, and understand the latest development in X-ray technology and applications of our instrumentation.
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