Using handheld XRF to recycle precious metals in catalytic converters

As precious metals surge, the high values of platinum group metals (PGM) platinum (Pt), palladium (Pd) and rhodium (Rh) found in ceramic-based automotive catalytic converters has resulted in a thriving recycling market.

To maximize testing throughput and profits, you need fast and accurate determination of precious metals in the catalyst powder. Handheld XRF (X-ray fluorescence) provides the answer. Hitachi’s X-MET8000 handheld XRF product range - Expert, Optimum and now including the lower-priced Smart model - include the car catalyst empirical calibration as an option for each package. They allow users to accurately determine the presence of PGM straight out of the box.

The converter’s honeycomb core is usually ceramic-based but its composition varies across automotive manufacturers. The X-MET8000’s car catalyst calibration takes into account this variation, and automatically compensates for elements originating from ceramics and steel core if used in the catalytic converter. There is no need for operator intervention, and no wasted time investigating and separating batches.

Following the decanning from the metal surround, the honeycomb core is removed and ground to a fine powder. Either of these processes requires accurate analysis of the Pt, Pd and Rh content for accurate pricing.

What did our tests find?

Our Applications Support Lab in Germany participated in a European proficiency test program for the analysis of two used auto catalytic converters. The calibration was created using a combination of catalyst reference materials, and well-analysed samples provided by leading global refiners. The results clearly demonstrated that the X-MET8000 provides reliable results for the rapid screening of spent catalytic converters straight out of the box. View the results here.

Why the X-MET8000 is ideal for catalytic converter analysis

Accuracy, ease of use and reliability are crucial to a robust analysis program and here’s why the X-MET8000 from Hitachi High-Tech fits the bill perfectly:

Best technology for accurate results: The X-MET8000 uses XRF technology. XRF is an excellent technique for catalytic converter analysis. It’s able to accurately determine the presence and composition of the precious metals including platinum, palladium and rhodium. The process can be carried out on substrates with any form, including powders and solids, and it’s completely non-destructive, which means it doesn’t adversely affect the material being measured, nor do you have to sacrifice any of the valuable powder for analysis purposes.

Handheld technology: The X-MET is a handheld, completely portable instrument. This means it can be taken on site across the entire recycling process and has enough battery life to last all day.

Robust design: The X-MET’s robust design withstands the harshest environments and weather conditions. It includes impact-resistant plastic housing with environmental sealing, rubber bumpers for protection against shocks, and is splash water and dust proof (IP54 compliant).

Car-catalyst calibration: The optional ‘car catalyst’ calibration can be pre-loaded on the instrument, making it ready to use right out of the box. The calibration accounts different compositions of converter from different manufacturers and automatically compensates for varying concentrations of ceramic elements. This eliminates the need for operator invention between analyzing different batches.

Widespread use: The X-MET can be used for more than just catalytic converter recycling. The X-MET’s alloy calibration can be used  for metal sorting at scrapyards so you can sort any scrap on site, including empty exhaust converter cans, manifolds and pipes rapidly onsite as well ensuring you get more value from the single instrument.

Using the rock-solid X-MET8000 makes recycling these valuable metals more profitable, giving you results you can rely on fast and ultimately, a cost-effective solution for precious metals analysis.


Read the application note.

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Date: 1 September 2020

Author: Christoffer Beck, Product Business Development Manager, Handheld XRF

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