Assaying, Microscopy, Mineralogy & XRF/XRD

Assaying, Microscopy, Mineralogy & XRF/XRD 2017-04-04T06:57:57+00:00
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X-ray Crystallography (16 replies and 1 comment)

Bill Fraser
2 years ago
Bill Fraser 2 years ago

Nice video, but as ever the diffraction get to do all the exciting stuff and us XRFers are left with analyzing cement and oil etc. Although, we do on occasions get to do some unusual tasks (see one of my recent posts) X-ray crystallography is one of the greatest innovations of the 20th century. 

I remember when I was in XRF product management people always told me that XRD was hard and XRF was easy so they needed to give more attention to XRD. I think the elegance of XRF is that we make the hard look easy, making the technology accessible to more people. As XRF expands into new areas there will always be new application challenges but it is up to us to continue to spread the word about the usefulness of XRF technology.

This animated journey through its 100 year history begins with the pioneering work of William and Lawrence Bragg in 1913 and ends on the surface of Mars. To date 28 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to projects related to the field and x-ray crystallography remains the foremost technique in determining the structures of a huge range of complex molecules. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqQlwYv8VQI

David Kano
2 years ago
David Kano 2 years ago

I agree it seems to be less “cool” to do XRF compare to XRD. But the contribution to fundamental understanding of the matter cannot be compare. I’m a XRF analyst but I must admit that crystallography can provide a lot more information about matter than XRF. XRF provides information about elemental composition and layer thickness when crystallography determines the atomic and molecular structure of a crystal, the size of atoms, the lengths and types of chemical bonds and confirmed many theoretical models of chemical bonding. In my view XRD help more to understand matter but XRF contributes to the quality of our daily life by ensuring that the products we used are safe, meet their requirements and ensure the quality of many different types of products of the daily life of every human beings. Or even all life on earth!

Maya Rothman
2 years ago
Maya Rothman 2 years ago

I agree 100% with what you say. I have been working with XRF (using and selling) for the last 35 years and believe in the technique passionately. What I was trying to say perhaps not eloquently enough, was XRD gets all the “sexy application” attention whilst XRF gets on with doing all the tasks you have listed, but quietly in the background. I’m sure all the Diffractionists out there will take issue with this.

Bill Fraser
2 years ago
Bill Fraser 2 years ago

I think that XRF also suffers because outside of Geology it is a technique not often taught anymore in universities, particularly in the US. Many people don't ever encounter it unless they work in an industry that uses it, while XRD is commonly used by materials researchers in a large number of universities. I think for XRF to get more visibility as highly powerful analytical technique we need to get it into the universities worldwide. I think the vendors can do a lot here especially with the handheld and benchtop systems. Universities are often pressed for money, especially those focused on teaching. Vendors often have depreciated or obsolete equipment in their application labs. Imagine if they packaged some of these systems with a little pre-package course material and started donating them to chemistry, material science and geology departments. If you learn the technique in school you are more likely to see applications for it when you get a job. I think these would be market development dollars well spent for the benefit of the industry as a whole. Some food for thought.

Victor Bergman
2 years ago
Victor Bergman 2 years ago

I have been working as a "common" user and "professional" application scientist for many years now and never I have had one day being the same as the other. Meaning, there can be a lot of variation and many "exciting" problems to resolved. Of course, when one works in the cement or oil industry, apart from doing some Initial calibrations, there is not much excitement, but those users are probably not interested much in XRF at all. That's fine by me, but in a community like this one I would expect some more respect for XRF, definitely compared to XRD.

I cannot fully agree with selling (or even donatng as I somewhere read) XRF spectrometers to certain communities. We, as vendors, already now have to let our pants down all too often in order to get a sale. Just compare the price of a system today and the price of a system 25 years ago. You will see that prices have actually decreased and that's in absolute values. What can we still offer more? Radioisotopes, that's past tense indeed, Michael. Unless you like calibrating a lot. I STICK TO XRF!

Alan Carter
2 years ago
Alan Carter 2 years ago

XRF is not taught enough in universities and vendors could promote XRF and themselves in one go. In my opinion, in addition to the relevant inputs that XRF can provide for so many kind of research projects; XRF can offer great benefits to universities for teaching purpose. The fundamentals and the complexity of XRF make it a very interesting topic.

To master XRF, a broad variety of knowledge as well as a wide range of fields of study are needed. Quantum physics and optics of course but chemistry, electronics, mathematics, statistics and all specific fields related to the sample type (geology, metallurgy, petrochemicals, catalysts, environmental) are involved in XRF. Even sample preparation and I have probably skipped some others. So I do see a place for XRF in all university department of science!

John Koenig
2 years ago
John Koenig 2 years ago

I think we are all agreed that XRF is a great technique. I think however, that the very term “XRF” is our problem. To those with only a slight understanding of the technique (i.e. its basic principles), “XRF is XRF is XRF”. However, to those of us who have a deeper understanding of the technique, the term XRF hides a huge diversity of sub-techniques such as Hi-Power WDXRF, Low and Hi-resolution EDXRF, Direct or Indirect (Polarised) Excitation EDXRF, Hand-Held, Micro-Focus, T-XRF, Monochromatic WDXRF. The list goes on. I don’t sell XRF instruments anymore. My company focusses on the sample preparation side of the technique, but I bet I am not the only XRF salesman who was told by a prospect “oh we tried XRF once, but it didn’t work”. Meaning he was sold the wrong kind of XRF sub-technique.

Tony Verdeschi
2 years ago
Tony Verdeschi 2 years ago

Maybe I didn’t understand your comment in an appropriate way but as Malcolm said XRF is more a diversity of sub-techniques than AN analytical technique.
I do not have your experience but I’m following your path. I have also been working in industrial lab, developing applications, and as application specialist within a XRF instrument manufacturer for many years and, like you, I always enjoy working in this so exciting field that is XRF. If my previous comment reveals a lack of respect for XRF, please receive my sincere apologize because that was not my intention at all. I’m not upset by your comment but I just wanted to clarify the situation and to make sure that you are not upset by mine as well. Viva XRF !

Bill Fraser
2 years ago
Bill Fraser 2 years ago

There are many XRF types of instrumentation and they are often marketed and sold in many different ways. Some companies focus on making XRF a commodity and are trying to push for the volume of sales and some focus on helping the customer understand the value proposition of XRF and helping the customer make the best choice to address their analytical problem, even when another technique might make more sense. The former approach can lead to less than optimal approach to sales, i.e. customers being convinced to buy a product that won't do what they need and then ultimately having a bad impression of the technique. I am not involved in the X-ray business anymore, but I my humble observation is that vendors spend too much time fighting each other than focusing on growing the market to new application areas. This will ultimately lead to market erosion, with companies having trouble investing in new XRF technology and product improvements and ultimately having the ability to support their customers. There are ample opportunities to grow the XRF market and a wide range of new application frontiers and industries to expand the technique into. Perhaps their should be a vendor neutral organization to support awareness of XRF and its capabilities.

JohnnyD
2 years ago
JohnnyD 2 years ago

It is very confusing at the moment to try and decide what make and model XRF to buy, I have also noticed that the quality and volume of new papers regarding new topics and applications has gone down. I know this happens as techniques become more everyday and seem less exciting but it is a shame.  There is not much common effort and sharing in XRF area. Don't get me wrong, information is exchanged, through groups like ours and XRF Listserver, and there even was some effort to write freeware programs (discontinued CSIRO alphas software comes to mind, and there surely were other projects) but that is so much less than XRD community has (look on freeware diffraction pattern database, for instance).

Helena Russell
2 years ago
Helena Russell 2 years ago

Papers relevant to most users of XRF have been dropping off in numbers over the last twenty five years. Here's a quick question for you all. When did you last look at a copy of 'X-Ray Spectrometry' ? One thing I have seen happening in the UK over the last couple of years is that there does seem to be an increase in University Chemistry Depts buying benchtop EDXRF to help with the interpretation of XRD data.

Bill Fraser
2 years ago
Bill Fraser 2 years ago

Thanks for pushing the conversation forward. I think you have identified two key issues. 

Promoting XRF through scientific achievement and communication of the achievements. Since XRF is not taught as a cutting edge discipline in many universities anymore I think it falls on the vendors who are funding their own research to share the non proprietary aspects of basic development in accessible journals and at conferences. There are a lot of fundamental aspects of X-ray physics and optics where there is research relevant to XRF and that needs to be communicated in a way that relates to the tangible benefits of using XRF to solve problems. Sharing information and promoting the technique should be a key mission for all XRF enthusiasts. 

XRF needs to be a technique where data can easily be shared and integrated with data from other techniques. As Michael pointed out, this is something that the XRD community does well. How about a universal data format for all instrumentation to this easier for users to integrate XRF data from many different types of instruments. The universal data format could easily be adopted by XRF users wanting to refine XRD data. A universal XRF data format makes that a lot easier and increases the usability of XRF.

John Koenig
2 years ago
John Koenig 2 years ago

Interesting ideas were suggested. In addition we need to keep in mind that actually XRF is strongly linked and mainly used in industries; where making money is one of the first objective (if not the only one). Thereby XRF manufacturers function in the same way. From that perspective it is not surprising that manufacturers do not want (or like) to share so much their developments. This is a huge difference compare to XRD which is more used in universities where research and publications are their livelihood. So maybe we should also think in another way to promote XRF like:

What can XRF bring to university? (Here Stephen raised up a nice option) or even more ambitious; how can XRF help to make discoveries and breakthroughs in science?

Victor Bergman
2 years ago
Victor Bergman 2 years ago

Academics want tools to help them pursue ground-breaking research, whilst Industry needs to improve profitability i.e. reduce cost of goods by controlling raw materials, or improve quality to maintain or improve their pricing. Therefore XRF is often regarded simply as a (very good) measurement tool. Research scientists on the other hand need more “discovery” tools which is why XRD and techniques like NMR and SEM-EDS are very often found in their departments. Perhaps a way forward for our community is to promote the advancement in the micro-focusing XRF systems and encourage the development of software packages for imaging that the SEM-EDS community enjoys.

Alan Carter
2 years ago
Alan Carter 2 years ago

It is a very good point, micro-focus machines are nice and very useful in still growing electronics market (or in old, but also big plating market), problem is that they represent quite isolated sub-market of XRF machines. Let me explain - from "Big Guns' only Bruker has decent line of microXRF, and some of them don't even consider "microXRF" as XRF and call it "coating thickness measurement". There is no vacuum, though (no pun intended;)) - there is quite vigorous competition between Helmut Fischer Scientific and Oxford, lots of RoHS applications, and very interesting efforts in coupled techniques made by Horriba Scientific (but no new machines were introduced for some time). Sorry if I don't mention other medium-small players, but it's big players who influence XRF future. I can understand unwillingness to meddle in relatively cheap market (top HFS machine was ~$95K - much lower than WDXRF machines by major manufacturers), or unwillingness to compete with their own SEM/EDS/WDS systems, but that's a fact.

Alan Carter
2 years ago

Additionally, regarding the suggestion to have common file format in order to get data between systems - I am afraid it is quite difficult to implement. Question is - what information 45 to export/import. First of all you have WD and ED systems, and while ED spectra can be easily exported in some kind of J-CAMP format file, quantitative analysis would be very difficult even in that case - different detectors, sensitivity, which changes even between machines (I guess, but I might be wrong...). Transfer of WD counts data... mind boggles. May be it is possible between same models of instruments, even that should be corrected for drift, different sensitivity of detectors, different climate of site, different people working on machines... I think that one thing we MUST have - it's common format for standards concentration data and conversion software - so we can transfer them between different manufacturers machines and not type them in or copy/paste them one cell in a time. I also would love to have some software (other than Excel, that's it), which helps to make gravimetric conversions, take in account humidity, LOIs etc. I guess there are LIMS, but they are too big sometimes.

Bill Fraser
2 years ago
Bill Fraser 2 years ago

I fully agree with your assessment of the common file format, but you were thinking a level deeper than I was. As you say it is very difficult to be able to normalizes count rates / element between different types of instruments. What I was thinking was a common data transfer format for concentration data. There is not a single standard that all vendors use. This can be a problem especially when interfacing with LIMS systems or trying to collect data from different types of analytical data( Sparc OE, ICP, LOI, XRD etc.). some type of reporting tool built into the software to give users a choice of a few different data export formats would be really helpful. On the standards front, a standard format has been needed for some time. It would make sense for vendors to work with industry partners to define one and make it available in their software. If such a standard format were available it could be used for standards data and final concentration data. It would be in everyone's best interest to do this.

Bob Mathias
2 years ago
Bob Mathias 2 years ago

Let’s distinguish two processes: data exportation and data importation. Of course I don’t have experience with all XRF software but I worked and tried some of them and they offer at least few data exportation formats which are easily handle with a LIMS system. Here I speak about the major WD-XRF manufacturers and few ED-XRF manufacturers. So in my opinion, offering different data exportation formats is a must-have from an analytical instrument and I guess that all manufacturers know it as the major parts of their customers want it. So from my experience, data exportation should not be a problem.
Contrariwise I fully agree with both of you that data importation should be implemented as soon as possible (or even quicker)! That’s so painful to have to type all these numbers again and again. And at the moment some manufacturers can offer it, they will have a very strong selling point.

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