Nine elements that challenge handheld XRF analysers but are easy for OES

Handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysers are useful for many elemental measuring tasks across numerous industries and applications. Advanced models produce fast, accurate results on the spot, for sample identification, grade sorting, and metals analysis involving elements from magnesium to uranium.

However, XRF technology faces significant limitations for certain elements. These constraints make it difficult or impossible to get satisfactory performance from handheld XRF in a number of applications. Elements that are really challenging for XRF analyzers include carbon, sulfur, phosphorus, aluminium, silicon, magnesium, lithium, beryllium, and boron.

One example: Due to difficulties with elements lighter than titanium, handheld XRF spectrometers lack the ability to determine the carbon content of a metal sample. This makes these instruments unsuitable for reliable analysis of some metal alloys, including two common varieties of steel: carbon steels and chromium/nickel steels.

A small absolute difference of a few hundred parts per million (ppm) of carbon is enough to give these alloys clearly different inter-granular behaviours. Thus, XRF analysers are not the right choice here.

Fortunately, recent advances in technology have created a new generation of high capability, mobile and portable OES metal analysers. They can quickly and precisely measure these challenging elements, or supply fast alloy sorting based on elemental content – on the dock or at the line.

For example, the Spectrotest mobile arc/spark OES spectrometer is the flagship of Spectro’s field deployable metals analysers. It provides rapid, accurate results in a mobile device bringing laboratory quality analysis of these challenging elements and more, right to the work site. Perhaps even more impressively, the new Spectroport portable arc/spark OES metals analyser combines many of Spectrotest’s advantages with the ease of a handheld. It delivers effortless on-the-spot, point-and-shoot performance in a smaller, lighter, affordable package.

Both these instruments provide superior analytical performance and high sample throughput. They can precisely measure every challenging element mentioned above. Both, Spectrotest and Spectroport can perform accurate and comprehensive analysis of elements, traces, and impurities, even at low concentration levels. And their greater OES analytical headroom lets them handle most sample anomalies such as poor sample surfaces, which can mislead handheld XRF instruments into incorrect measurements.

In many applications where XRF technology just can’t deliver adequate performance, these mobile OES solutions have become the spectrometers of choice.

Please find more information in a new, cost-free Spectro White Paper that you can request here:

About Spectro
Spectro, a unit of the Materials Analysis Division of Ametek, Inc., manufactures advanced instruments, develops the best solutions for elemental analysis in a broad range of applications, and provides exemplary customer service. Spectro’s products are known for their superior technical capabilities that deliver measurable benefits to the customer. From its foundation in 1979 until today, more than 40 000 analytical instruments have been delivered to customers around the world.

Ametek, Inc. is a leading global manufacturer of electronic instruments and electromechanical products with over 15 000 colleagues at more than 150 manufacturing and sales and service operations in the United States and 30 other countries around the world.

For further details contact Spectro Analytical South Africa on TEL: 011 979 4241 or visit