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Australian Government: National Measurement InstituteAustralian Government: National Measurement Institute
National Measurement Institute

Elemental Analysis using X-ray Fluorescence

NMI's X-ray Fluorescence SpectrometerConsumer products are increasingly prepared or treated with a complex range of chemicals that may be detrimental to human health. When calibrated with appropriate reference materials, X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry provides an accurate and high precision quantitative ‘total’ determination of inorganic elements in solid samples such as soils, sediments, mining ores, dusts, consumer products (including paint, plastics, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, electronic components and toys), metals and alloys (including jewellery).

NMI’s Capabilities

NMI is proficient in XRF, a rapid and convenient analytical technique that utilises X-rays to excite electrons, in particular atoms, thereby releasing energy in the form of a photon (light). The XRF instrument collects these fluorescing photons and matches them to the ‘fingerprint’ of the elements, thereby identifying them.

NMI uses XRF to identify elements with atomic numbers ranging from 13 (aluminium) to 92 (uranium). Toxic elements such as lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium can be detected and measured with limits of reporting ranging from 5 to 1000 milligrams per kilogram (see table).

XRF has a number of advantages over conventional instrumental chemical techniques such as inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES) analysis. XRF:

  • measures the total concentration of elements in a sample, rather than just the acid-extractable portion
  • is ideal for determining those elements which are difficult to extract using acid digestion, e.g. titanium, platinum, silica
  • involves minimal sample preparation and analysis time, so results are typically available much faster than with other techniques (1 to 2 days)
  • is non-invasive and non-destructive, ideal for testing consumer products such as toys and jewellery or where limited sample mass is available
  • is portable, thus addressing the need for in situ analysis of inorganic contaminants

We offer a comprehensive suite of analysis comprising XRF as a screening and exploratory technique and if needed, ICP-MS and ICP-AES for further quantitative results. Readily available expertise allows quick turnaround times and cost-effective solutions.

NMI is NATA accredited for soils and pharmaceutical analyses which meet Therapeutic Goods Administration requirements.

For further information please contact, 1300 722 845 or use our on-line form.

Limits of reporting for soils, plastics and metals
(samples are reported on a dry-weight basis, if required samples are dried and ground prior to analysis)

Element Soils
Element Soils
Ag 20 0.01 Ni 50 10 0.01
Al 1000 1 P 1000
As 5 5 Pb 5 5 0.01
Au 20 5 0.01 Pd 10 0.01
Ba 100 50 0.01 Pt 0.01
Bi 100 5 0.01 Rb 10
Br 5 0.01 S 100
Ca 100 Sb 20 10 0.01
Cd 20 10 0.01 Sc 50
Cl 1000 50 Se 5 5 0.01
Co 100 0.01 Si 1000
Cr 100 5 0.01 Sn 20 10 0.01
Cs 50 Sr 5
Cu 10 10 0.01 Ta 0.01
Fe 50 20 0.01 Te 50
Hf 0.01 Th 50
Hg 10 5 0.01 Ti 50 10 0.01
In 0.01 U 10
K 100 V 20 100 0.01
Mn 50 0.01 W 20
Mo 5 0.01 Zn 10 10 0.01
Nb 100 0.01 Zr 10 0.01