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Applications of PXRF in the Field


Portable Analytical Solutions

PXRF In The Field

Handheld and portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysers have many applications for elemental analysis

Below is a summary from the Thermo Scientific XRF Technology ebook, of a few industries putting XRF technology to work in daily operations.


Metal Alloy Analysis, Identification and Testing

Scrap Metal Recycling

Globalised trade in scrap metal, alloy stock and finished products has resulted in increased costs of alloy mix-ups to suppliers, distributors and industrial consumers. So in order to ensure quality, safety and regulatory compliance, the exact chemical composition of scrap, including the existence of contaminants or hazardous elements, must be determined.

Scrap metal recyclers use handheld PXRF to:

  • Rapidly sort mixed metals
  • Positively identify numerous alloys, including light alloys
  • Guarantee the quality of their product to their customers

Positive Material Identification (PMI)

If critical parts of machinery are made from the wrong metal alloy, or a material that does not meet specifications, it can lead to premature and potentially catastrophic part failures, and result in accidents.

Positive Material Identification (PMI) is the process of inspecting and analysing individual component materials. Portable XRF analysers can perform PMI of:

  • Incoming raw materials
  • Work in progress
  • Final quality assurance of finished parts

Precious Metals & Jewellery Analysis 

Portable XRF analysers are ideal for jewellers and pawn shops to test the purity and composition of precious metals. XRF quickly provides the exact percentages of all elements within an item, easily identifying:

  • Karat and concentration of Gold
  • Non-standard materials
  • Under-karated materials
  • Sophisticated counterfeit precious metals that acid testing is incapable of differentiating 

Metal Fabrication; Quality Assurance & Control

In the metal fabrication and manufacturing process, the potential for material mix-ups and the need for traceability are a concern at every step. Material verification for alloy quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) are critical to product safety.

Prior to product manufacture, Handheld XRF is used for:

  • Inspection of incoming raw material to verify alloy grade and composition
  • Final quality inspection before finished parts are sent to the customer
  • Assurance that the incoming raw materials and outgoing finished parts meet the expected engineering requirements



Portable XRF analysers are perfect for the mining/geology industries, as they can be operated virtually anywhere on site and easily accommodate a wide variation of samples, with little or no sample preparation.

This makes them substantially advantageous in mining operations, because it provides immediate feedback and allows for quick decision making, including:

  • Whether to stop or continue drilling
  • When to make equipment relocation decisions
  • Where to focus on the grid
  • When to select a sample for laboratory analysis

The real-time analysis of a handheld XRF also prequalifies samples for off-site lab analysis, which ensures only the best samples are evaluated.

Below are specific applications of the PXRF within mining/geology:


XRF analysers quickly deliver exploration data for quantitative geochemical analysis of metal concentrations for mine mapping. 

Production and Mineral Processing

Fast, laboratory-grade sample analysis data for process control, quality assurance and other operational decisions.

Mine Site Analysis and Extraction

Send data to quarry laboratory and operations management personnel for easy collaboration and informed decisions. 

Industrial Minerals Evaluation

In-quarry exploration and evaluating the composition of raw materials such as phosphate, potash, gypsum and limestone for industrial use.

Oil & Gas Exploration

Valuable for upstream exploration and production, offering rapid, on-site chemical analysis of rocks, cuttings, and cores that can be used for identifying formations and determining mineral composition of the rock. Users can infer mineralogical properties favourable to oil and gas production from data collected in real time. 


Toys and Consumer Goods

Consumer goods such as toys, apparel, jewellery, cosmetics and furniture are now routinely screened using XRF analysers. This protocol largely came as a result of The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, which was signed into law to combat the alarming amounts of lead found in children’s toys.

Both the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Europe’s PROSAFE (Product Safety) use XRF analysers for screening toys and consumer goods.

Worldwide Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) regulations continue to impact the manufacturers of electrical and electronic goods and their supply chains…as do the halogen-free initiatives. Handheld XRF analysers help enforcement agencies screen goods for:

  • Mercury
  • Lead
  • Other harmful materials


Environmental Analysis / Remediation

PXRF analysers provide on-site analysis of environmental contaminants, from hazardous site modeling and risk assessment to on-site contaminant screening and lead paint abatement.

Lead Paint Inspection

Government regulations, such as the U.S. EPA-issued Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule, mandate lead-safe work practices for contractors performing renovations. XRF analysers provide conclusive results for lead in samples as referred to in AS/NZS 4361.2:2017associated with the abatement and control of lead-based paint for compliance with RRP and other state and federal requirements.


Industrial and agricultural sites can become contaminated with lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and other toxic metals. The first remedial step in treating these hazardous areas is accurately assessing the scope and extent of the pollutants in the soil.

XRF analysers provide lab-grade performance in the field, permitting surgical delineation of contamination boundaries while in full compliance with US EPA Method 6200. 


Art and Archaeometry

PXRF analysers can collect quantitative elemental data from archaeological samples. This data can be used to:

  • Match pigments and other materials for restoration
  • Help identify how objects have been preserved in the past
  • How to better conserve them for the future
  • Glean important clues to the age of petroglyphs
  • Identify alloys and other materials
  • Help authenticate a variety of art and artifacts

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) requires that Native American cultural artifacts be returned to lineal descendants or affiliated tribes. XRF technology can be used to evaluate these objects for the presence of arsenic or other harmful preservatives before they are returned.

As you can see, the portable XRF devices are incredibly versatile and have a broad range of applications. This is thanks to the software, which can be interchanged within the same device.

To find out more and read the full XRF Technology ebook from Thermo Scientific, click on the button below: