X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) is one of the most common techniques used for studying the elemental composition of different materials. In this materials characterization method the sample is irradiated with x-ray radiation, which knocks out electrons from atoms, leaving them in an excited state. During the relaxation of these atoms the excess energy is released in the form of x-ray radiation. The energy and intensity of this radiation however depends directly on the composition of the material. Therefore it is possible to study a materials composition by detecting the x-rays that come out of the sample. Watch our video to learn more!
Our new science video about an elemental analysis technique, x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, is now available online!
We have started making a new science video about X-Ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF). In this 6 minute video we will explain with 3D animations the basics of this materials characterization technique and do a demonstrations where we use XRF to measure the elemental composition of an ancient coin.
This video will be published in October 2016.
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Characteristic X-Rays are generated when excited sample atoms undergo a relaxation process. For that the atoms need to be excited first and this can be done with high energy electromagnetic radiation (in XRF) or accelerated particles such as electrons (in SEM). The primary beam kicks out an inner shell electron and a vacant spot is left behind. As this state is unstable, a higher shell electron will soon move into this vacant spot and during this process energy is emitted in the form of X-Rays. This emitted radiation has a specific energy which depends on the binding energies of the two electrons that participated in this process. If this emitted ( characteristic ) x-ray radiation is detected then the composition of the material can be measured.
X-ray tubes are devices that produce x-ray radiation, which is useful in various applications. For example in medicine this high energy electromagnetic radiation is used for imaging your body. In airports x-rays are used to scan your luggage for prohibited items. X-rays can also be used for materials characterization in techniques such as x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy or photoelectron spectroscopy.
An x-ray tube consists of an anode and a cathode within a casing that can hold vacuum. The cathode is heated to high temperatures, where it starts emitting electrons – this process is known as thermionic emission. A high voltage applied between the cathode and the anode accelerates the emitted electrons towards the anode. When these high energy electrons interact with the anode some of the energy is converted into x-ray radiation and some into heat. Thats why water cooling is needed to prevent the overheating of the anode.The emitted x-ray radiation consists of two components – bremsstrahlung and characteristic x-rays. In the case of bremsstrahlung the electromagnetic radiation is emitted from the negative electron when its trajectory is changed by a positively charged atoms nucleus. This radiation has a very broad energy range. Its energy and intensity depends on the voltage between the anode and the cathode, on the cathode filaments heating current and on the atomic number of the anode material. Characteristic x-rays however have a very specific energy, which strongly depends on the anode material. This radiation is generated when the accelerated electrons excite the anode atoms by kicking out inner shell electrons. In the relaxation process a higher shell electron moves to the vacant spot and the excess energy is emitted in the form of x-rays. The energy of these characteristic x-rays depend on the binding energy of the electron that was kicked out and the binding energy of the electron that occupied the vacant spot. The generated x-rays leave the tube through a beryllium window. Beryllium is used as a window material because it doesnt absorb much of the x-rays as it has a low atomic number. Be sure to follow us in youtube for more awesome videos in the future!
X-ray tubes are widely used for generating X-ray radiation. This radiation has a shorter wavelength than visible light and can easily penetrate through different materials. It can be used in different applications such as materials characterization (XRF, XPS, XRD etc), medicine (x-ray tomography) or security in airports.
The radiation is generated with the help of accelerated electrons. These electrons are first generated on a tungsten cathode via thermoionic emission. Then these electrons are accelerated towards the anode due to a high electric potential between the anode and the cathode. When the electrons interact with the anode, x-rays are emitted. The radiation consists of two components – characteristic x-rays and bremsstrahlung. Characteristic x-rays are generated during the relaxation process of excited anode atoms. This radiation has a specific energy. Bremsstrahlung with a broad range of energy however is emitted from the primary electrons when they slow down or change trajectory during interaction with the anode.
The generated x-rays leave the tube through a beryllium window. This material is used as it has a low atomic number and doesnt absorb much of the emitted radiation.
There are also other types of x-ray tubes, such as the twin anode x-ray tube and the rotating anode x-ray tube.
In the case of twin-anode system, the anodes are made from different materials and only one of them is bombarded with electrons at the same time. This allows fast and easy switching between two excitation energies. The other anode will also serve as a backup if one should fail.
Using a rotating anode allows the heat to distribute on a larger surface area and therefore it is possible to get x-rays with much higher energies and intensities.