XRF analysis as an alternative to ICP

ICP is a highly accurate analytical technique that can detect minute levels of trace substances within a sample. Yet the technique is very complicated, must be carried out by specialists, and uses delicate equipment that needs regular calibration and maintenance. Although the ICP test itself is fast, the sample preparation is difficult, takes a long time, and involves substances that are dangerous to handle. In many cases, XRF analysis can be a good alternative to ICP testing, either replacing your ICP analysis completely, or acting as a backup when the ICP equipment is out of action.

What you can do with XRF

XRF analysis can detect elements within a sample from percentage to the parts per million range. You can use it to detect elements from Na to U in the periodic table, and it can measure solids, liquids, powders, pastes and films. Like ICP, the measurement time is fast; from a few seconds to minutes.

Advantages of XRF

If you are analysing below the ppm range then ICP is the method you should choose. However, for the ppm range and above XRF offers several advantages:

  • Test is non-destructive. The XRF test leaves no marks on the surface of the sample (or affects a liquid in any way). This means that the analysed sample can be put back into production for further processing or shipped to customers.
  • Fast and simple sample preparation. If you are analysing a liquid, paste, powder or pellets, you simply pour them into the sample cup and place into the analyser, and solids may need to be cut to the right size to fit into the analyser. No other sample preparation is usually needed; this speeds up the measurement process and reduces the possibility of contamination.
  • Anyone can use the equipment. You won’t need a skilled lab technician to run the XRF tests. With only a little training, anyone can use the equipment safely, and deliver accurate results.
  • Low cost of ownership. The only equipment you’ll need to run the XRF analyser are sample cups or holders, and perhaps the use of helium if you’re measuring very light elements (such as sodium Na). Other than this, your only running cost is electricity.
  • No use of wet chemicals. Because you test the sample as it is with XRF, you won’t need to purchase, store and handle hazardous chemicals. This reduces costs and risks to your staff.
  • More reproducible results. XRF analysis measures a larger sample size than ICP. This means that the results are more likely to be representative of the whole sample. And less sample preparation means less chance of contamination during the testing process. Also, because the test is so simple and fast, you can double-check results easily.

If you are analysing elements from Na to U in the ppm range upwards, then XRF might be worth considering as an alternative to ICP.

Hitachi XRF Analysers

Hitachi XRF analysers are designed to be easy-to-use, robust and cope with high testing throughput. They are also very quick, just put the sample in the analyser and press a button. Very quickly, the analyser provides a simple readout of the elements present in the sample. You’ll also be able to review the detailed spectra for further analysis.

Another feature that helps with accuracy is the sample spinner. During the measurement process, the sample is rotated to enable the x-ray beam to cover a larger area on the sample. This gives a much more representative result of the elements within the sample.

Find out more

For more information on whether XRF analysis can replace your ICP testing, please get in touch with one of our experts. You can also see technical specifications for our XRF analysers here.




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Date: 11 July 2019

Author: Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science

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