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X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF)

An X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) Spectrometer is an x-ray instrument used for routine, relatively non-destructive chemical analysis of rocks, minerals, sediments and fluids.

cogsHow does it work?

It works on wavelength-dispersive spectroscopic principles that are similar to an electron microprobe (EPMA). However, an XRF cannot generally make analyses at the small spot sizes typical of EPMA work (2-5 microns), so it is typically used for bulk analyses of larger fractions of geological materials.

The relative ease and low cost of sample preparation, and the stability and ease of use of x-ray spectrometers make this one of the most widely used methods for analysis of major and trace elements in rocks, minerals, and sediment.

The XRF method depends on fundamental principles that are common to several other instrumental methods involving interactions between electron beams and x-rays. When materials are excited with high-energy, short wavelength radiation (e.g., X-rays), they can become ionized. If the energy of the radiation is sufficient to dislodge a tightly-held inner electron, the atom becomes unstable and an outer electron replaces the missing inner electron. When this happens, energy is released due to the decreased binding energy of the inner electron orbital compared with an outer one. The emitted radiation is of lower energy than the primary incident X-rays and is termed fluorescent radiation.

Because the energy of the emitted photon is characteristic of a transition between specific electron orbitals in a particular element, the resulting fluorescent X-rays can be used to detect the abundances of elements that are present in the sample.


Chemical composition; defect analysis; failure analysis; materials qualification; forensics.

Sample Handling Requirements:

Solid <150mm side.

Complementary Techniques:



Claire Gerard: c dot gerard at warwick dot ac dot uk / 07385 145064

XRF equipment

Typical results format, and sample:

XRF spectrum


Warwick collect/analyse data

Warwick collect data
Available to user with expertise/ contribution
  Spare capacity for collaborative research
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